The US Senate has revived a divisive debate over civil liberties and the president’s powers as commander in chief, voting that American citizens suspected of terrorism and seized on US soil may not be held indefinitely.
Ignoring a White House veto threat, a coalition of liberal Democrats and libertarian Republicans backed an amendment to a sweeping defence bill that said the government cannot detain a US citizen or legal resident indefinitely without charge or trial, even with the authorization to use military force or a declaration of war.
The strong bipartisan approval late Thursday sets up a fight with the House of Representatives, which rejected efforts to bar indefinite detention when it passed its bill in May.
Current law denies suspected terrorists, including US citizens seized within the borders, the right to trial and subjects them to the possibility they would be held indefinitely.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein recalled the dark days of World War II when the US forcibly removed thousands of Japanese-Americans and placed them in permanent internment camps amid unfounded fears that they were spies or security threats.
Lawmakers also approved an amendment preventing transfer of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to prisons in the US.
The Senate also unanimously approved Friday a new package of tough sanctions on Iran targeting energy, port, shipping sectors as entities of proliferation. It marked the third time in less than a year that Congress has hit Iran with sanctions.