Sari Horwitz and Peter Finn
February 29, 2012
President Obama issued an order Tuesday night laying out broad new waivers that allow U.S. law enforcement agencies to retain custody of al-Qaeda terrorism suspects rather than turn them over to the military.
The new waivers are Obama’s response to a law passed by Congress last year that requires that alleged al-Qaeda terrorists who are not U.S. citizens be held in military custody rather than being processed through the civilian court system. Key GOP senators said Tuesday night that the president’s measures raised “significant concerns,” and they vowed to hold a hearing to scrutinize them.
U.S. law enforcement officials had feared that the law on sending alleged al-Qaeda members to military custody would inhibit their ability to get suspects to cooperate. The White House threatened to veto the measure, part of the 2012 Defense Authorization Act.
In December, a compromise was reached between Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), requiring military custody for non-U.S. citizens who are suspected members of al-Qaeda or its affiliates and who have planned or carried out an attack against the United States or its coalition partners — unless the president waives that provision.