Author Topic: Bush vetoes move to ban water torture  (Read 70 times)


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Bush vetoes move to ban water torture
« on: March 15, 2008, 03:27:57 AM »
President George Bush maintained his collision course with the Democrats in Congress over the use of torture when he wielded a rare presidential veto on Saturday to block legislation that would have banned the CIA from applying force when interrogating terror suspects.

The president threw out a bill initiated by the Democrats that would have limited the CIA to a range of methods set out by the army.

The legislation would have outlawed coercive techniques including waterboarding, the process of simulating drowning that has been a source of prolonged hostility between the White House and Congress over the past year.

Bush said that any attempt to restrict CIA interrogators would weaken them in the fight against al-Qaida. He claimed the CIA had used its own secret methods to foil several attacks, including plans to attack Heathrow, to fly a plane into the US Bank Tower in Los Angeles and to hit the US consulate in Karachi.

"This is no time for Congress to abandon practices that have a proven track record of keeping America safe," he said. But Democrats accused him of failing to put the torture debate to rest.

"Torture is a black mark against the United States," said Dianne Feinstein, the California senator who is a member of the Senate intelligence committee.

The legislation would have limited CIA interrogators to using the same 19 techniques that the military set out in its army field manual in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal. The manual forbids the use of force and specifically rules out waterboarding, hooding, use of dogs, forced nudity or sexual acts.

Next week the Democrats will attempt to overturn the veto, although the mathematics are not promising. It would take a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress to revive the bill, and the Democrats commanded only a narrow majority when they passed the legislation.

The interrogation controversy has led to deep tensions between branches of government, with the White House and CIA on one side and the Pentagon, state and justice departments on the other.

The director of the CIA, Mike Hayden, was swift to praise the Bush veto, arguing that the field manual was inappropriate as a guide for the CIA as the two institutions "have different missions, different capabilities and therefore difference procedures".

Hayden has come under intense pressure over the issue of torture in recent months. In February he revealed to a congressional committee that he had banned waterboarding from CIA interrogations in 2006, confirming that it had been used on only three al-Qaida suspects in 2002/3. He said he could not be sure of its legality under today's laws.

However, it remains on the CIA's list of tools, and could still be used if approved by the president and attorney general.

The subject may become a factor in the November presidential elections. The Republican nominee, John McCain, who was himself tortured, in Vietnam, has been a vocal opponent of waterboarding, but he approved the Bush veto on the grounds that the CIA should not be bound by a public army manual.