The Senate voted on Wednesday against considering a measure to give Guantanamo detainees and other foreigners the right to challenge their detention in the U.S. courts.
The legislation needed 60 votes to be considered by lawmakers in the Senate, narrowly controlled by Democrats; it received only 56, with 43 voting against the effort to roll back a key element of President George W. Bush's war on terrorism.
The measure would have granted foreign terrorism suspects the right of habeas corpus, Latin for "you have the body," which prevents the government from locking people up without review by a court.
Congress last year eliminated this right for non-U.S. citizens labeled "enemy combatants" by the government. The Bush administration said this was necessary to prevent them from being set free and attacking Americans.
The move affected about 340 suspected al Qaeda and Taliban captives held at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba. It also affects millions of permanent legal residents of the United States who are not U.S. citizens, said one of the sponsors of the bipartisan measure, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
"Any of these people could be detained forever without the ability to challenge their detention in federal court" under the changes in law Congress made last year, Leahy said on the Senate floor. This was true "even if they (authorities) made a mistake and picked up the wrong person."