President Bush vetoes CIA waterboarding ban

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Saturday, March 8, 2008

Bush with CIA director Michael Hayden (right) and Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte (left).

United States President George W. Bush has vetoed a bill that would have banned the Central Intelligence Agency from using harsh interrogation techniques such as waterboarding, he said in his weekly radio address Saturday.

"Because the danger remains, we need to ensure our intelligence officials have all the tools they need to stop the terrorists," Bush said. "The bill Congress sent me would take away one of the most valuable tools in the war on terror - the CIA program to detain and question key terrorist leaders and operatives."

The bill, which passed the House of Representatives in November and the Senate in February despite warnings that it would be vetoed, established guidelines for intelligence activities. One of these guidelines would limit the CIA to only using interrogation methods allowed in the U.S. Army Field Manual.

The relevant text of the bill reads:

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No individual in the custody or under the effective control of an element of the intelligence community or instrumentality thereof, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to any treatment or technique of interrogation not authorized by the United States Army Field Manual on Human Intelligence Collector Operations.

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Among the methods prohibited in the manual are stripping prisoners naked, forcing them to perform sexual acts, beating, electrocuting, or burning them, staging mock executions, withholding food and medical attention, and the controversial technique known as waterboarding.

Waterboarding involves pouring water over a prisoner's cloth-covered face in a simulation of drowning. It is condemned as torture by many nations, human rights groups, and members of Congress.

Although Bush did not specifically mention waterboarding in his address, he did hint to it in some of his statements. "The bill Congress sent me would not simply ban one particular interrogation method, as some have implied," he said. "Instead, it would eliminate all the alternative procedures we've developed to question the world's most dangerous and violent terrorists."

Bush said that the methods used by the military are designed for interrogating "lawful combatants captured on the battlefield", not the "hardened terrorists" normally questioned by the CIA. "If we were to shut down this program and restrict the CIA to methods in the Field Manual, we could lose vital information from senior al Qaida terrorists, and that could cost American lives," Bush said.

Massachusetts senator Edward Kennedy described Bush's veto as "one of the most shameful acts of his presidency". In a statement released Friday, he said, "Unless Congress overrides the veto, it will go down in history as a flagrant insult to the rule of law and a serious stain on the good name of America in the eyes of the world."


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