The White House had already threatened a veto if the bill wasn't changed, saying it could not accept legislation that "challenges or constrains the president's authorities to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the nation."
Obama spoke to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D., Mich.). Clinton and Panetta also spoke to Levin, and Mueller has met with Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, administration and congressional officials said Friday on condition of anonymity.
The administration insists the military, law enforcement, and intelligence agents need flexibility in prosecuting the antiterror effort. Obama cites his administration's successes in eliminating Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda figure Anwar al-Awlaki. Republicans counter that their efforts are necessary to respond to an evolving, post-9/11 threat, and that Obama has failed to produce a consistent policy on handling terrorism suspects. The Senate bill would require the military to take custody of suspects deemed members of al-Qaeda or its affiliates and involved in plotting or committing attacks on the United States, with an exemption for U.S. citizens.
The bill does allow the executive branch to waive the military's authority based on national security and hold suspects in civilian custody, but the administration argues that is insufficient.
As negotiators have raced to finish the bill by early this coming week, administration officials have offered various changes to the provisions but have had little success in persuading lawmakers. One potential change was to limit the cases in which the military custody provision would apply.
The legislation also would deny suspected terrorists, even U.S. citizens seized within the nation's borders, the right to trial and would subject them to indefinite detention. The Obama administration also opposes that change.