The US Senate on Thursday approved a vast military spending bill that tied strings to military aid to Pakistan and aimed to stem the spread of shoulder-fired anti--aircraft missiles from Libya.
The US$662 billion annual Defense Authorization legislation also included a murky compromise on whether the US government might hold suspected terrorists, including US citizens, indefinitely without trial.
The bill, which sailed to passage by a lopsided 93-7 margin, also included tough new sanctions aimed at cutting off Iran’s central bank from the global financial system.
Lawmakers feuded for much of the week on the legislation’s affirmation of past judicial opinions that US citizens who sign on with al-Qaeda or affiliated groups may be held indefinitely without trial.
Senators repeatedly rejected efforts to exempt Americans from that fate, but ultimately voted 99-1 for a compromise that left the volatile issue to the US Supreme Court.
The White House, which previously issued a vague threat to veto the bill over the detainee provisions, had no immediate comment, but Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International urged it to stand firm.
The legislation did exempt US citizens from a requirement that al-Qaeda fighters who plot or carry out attacks on US targets be held in military, not civilian, custody.
Critics expressed worries that tough new standards for transferring detainees to other countries — notably a requirement that top US officials formally declare them no longer a threat — could hamper the US exit from Afghanistan, where US forces hold thousands of prisoners.
The legislation included a provision by US Senator Bob Casey aimed at blocking counterinsurgency aid to Pakistan until Islamabad takes aggressive steps to curb the use of roadside bombs.
It also included an amendment calling for US-Libya cooperation to secure former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s stockpile of 20,000 portable anti-aircraft missiles.