WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States could detain more foreigners as enemy combatants under legislation Congress will debate this week after a last-minute change in the bill, lawmakers said on Tuesday.Yes, Sen. Graham wants to make sure that you can be readily added to the ranks of the Enemy Combatants. Oh, no, you say, you are an American citizen -- that can't happen to you, right? That's only the swarthy and be-turbaned foreigners! Guess again:
Democrats complained that Republicans quietly made several changes to the bill defining procedures for trying foreign terrorism suspects after an agreement last week between the White House and a group of dissident Republican senators.
"There are significant changes," said Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee. He said the new elements could complicate efforts to push the bill through Congress before lawmakers leave this weekend to campaign for November elections.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a key negotiator on the bill, said enemy combatants would now include those who provided money, weapons and other support for terrorist groups as well as those involved in actual operations.
Graham of South Carolina said the term "enemy combatant" also would apply to those fighting a U.S. ally.
"We're making sure that an enemy combatant could be defined as something other than a front-line troop," Graham said. "We want to make sure that giving material aid and support to terrorism would put you in the enemy combatant category."
Graham said U.S. citizens could not be deemed enemy combatants under the bill, but several human rights advocates said the language was so broad that they believed Americans could be detained under it. The Center for Constitutional Rights said even attorneys representing Guantanamo inmates could be deemed enemy combatants.Yes, but doesn't "material" support mean sending money or weapons or peanut-butter sandwiches to the turr'sts? Well, maybe. Maybe it would just mean saying the wrong damn thing in public -- in your blog, for example. Maybe it would turn out that crimethink is a reliable indicator of the secret provision of material support. Maybe it will turn out that Jorge knows you're a Bad Guy because he got the Word of Knowledge™ from John Hagee. The point is, once you're renditioned and Gitmo-ized, you'll undoubtedly have many opportunities to discuss these fine points with the guard, when he comes to conduct you down the hall to Room 101 for your waterboarding sessions. As long as he's in the mood to converse, that is. If he's not, I'm sure he'll find some tactful way to use his boot to say so.
We didn't say anything when they came for John Walker Lindh, because he did seem like a bit of a jerk, at least. We didn't say anything when they came for Jose Padilla, because he had a funny name and looked like a dirtbag. And when they come for us, we won't say anything then, either ... except maybe, "I'll sign anything -- just please, don't hit me any more!"