Issue in Brief
The war on terror gave rise to a new kind of foe - the "enemy combatant." Not quite prisoners of war, but not run-of-the-mill criminals either, these "enemies" are being held in a legal limbo state - mostly at Guantanamo - that's caused strains in international relations and at-home politics.
The central debate about combatants iwas inititially over the kind of trials and due process rights they are entitled to, but word of actions in Gitmo and at secret prisons have also kicked up a debate over torture.
Lawmakers tried to settle the trial issue by passing legislation in October 2006, but they left a trail of legal wrinkles in their wake. Not only were civil libertarians dissatisfied with the new rules for combatant tribunals, they also didn't like the fuzzy line the Bush administration drew between legit interrogation methods and torture - or the fact that enemy combatants lost their right to habeas corpus (that is, the right to go to court).
With the fall of the Soviet Union and the break down of traditional warfare, terrorism has become the international security threat of the 21st century. Terrorist groups have been around for a while, but 9-11 and other strikes of similar magnitude have made terrorism a major national security threat to countries worldwide.
There's no issue more on Americans' minds. Everyone wants to combat terrorism, but few agree on how. Defense funding, the PATRIOT Act, upped security around the country, new methods of gathering intelligence, revamping Homeland Security, the war in Afghanistan and intelligence leadership changes are all pieces in the combating terrorism puzzle.
What, exactly, is terrorism?
There's no universal definition, but a few working definitions are...
The Week of July 13
The floors of Capitol Hill are busy with spending matters this week. While the House churns through two more of its twelve spending bills for fiscal year 2010 - a $33b Energy and Water bill and $24b for Financial Services - senators will wade into lengthy debate over the $690b defense authorization bill, HR 1390. The "authorization" bill doesn't write the check for the military ("appropriations" bills do that), but it does okay what can go into an appropriations bill for next year. One budgetary item that will slow up passage is a $2b allotment for F-22 fighter planes: the Pentagon says it doesn't need the extra planes; the administration doesn't want to pay for them; but lawmakers in the homestates that build F-22s are pushing to buy them anyway.