By continuing to focus exclusively on security questions to the exclusion of international human rights, certain members of Congress have contributed to a political climate in which the rights of detainees are disregarded. The senior Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Senator Kit Bond, the senior Republican on the Committee, had written to President Obama calling on him to suspend detainee transfers to Yemen in the wake of the attempted attack. Senator Bond welcomed the White House’s decision to stop the transfers as “a step in the right direction”, but added that “since we now know that releasing or transferring these hardened terrorists amounts to an all expenses paid trip back to the battlefield, the Administration should abandon its flawed and dangerous plan to close GTMO.”29The following day, in a statement condemning the administration’s decision to indict Umar Abdulmutallab in federal court Senator Bond said “We must treat these terrorists as what they are — not common criminals, but enemy combatants in a war.”30
On 7 January 2010, two senior members of the US Senate Committee on Armed Services, Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator John McCain, wrote to President Obama urging him, in addition to stopping transfers to Yemen, “at a minimum” to halt detainee releases to a number of other countries, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan and Saudi Arabia. Referring to the ongoing post-Boumedienehabeas corpus proceedings, the two Senators reiterated their “belief that the US court system, however capable, should not be developing the policies by which we prosecute this war”. They also suggested the creation of “comprehensive legislation that will ensure the continued detention of those who pose a threat to our national security”, including detainees ordered released on habeas corpus.31Amnesty International urges all officials in the administration and Congress not only to cease the current practice of seeking to rely on the AUMF and analogies to the international law of armed conflict to justify indefinite detention on national security grounds, but also to reject any other proposal that would serve to undermine the USA’s long tradition of confidence in and reliance upon the criminal justice system to counter threats of violence against its population (as enactment of preventive security legislation as proposed by the Senators would entail). To do otherwise would represent a huge step backwards both in terms of the USA’s own history of protection of constitutional rights and in terms of its promotion and advancement of human rights norms at the international level.