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Senate Panel Bans Private Contractors in CIA Interrogations

by Pamela Hess

WASHINGTON - The Senate Intelligence Committee moved on Thursday to ban the CIA from using private contractors to interrogate detainees.

The restriction is part of a bill that authorizes intelligence spending for 2009, which the panel approved on a 10-5 vote, sending it to the full Senate for further action.

The bill would also require the intelligence agencies to give the International Committee of the Red Cross access to all their prisoners. That would prevent the United States from holding "ghost detainees" - anonymous prisoners detained incommunicado and without records.

This is the first time the committee has mandated Red Cross access to all prisoners since ghost detainees were documented in 2004.

The bill also limits the CIA to using only those interrogation techniques approved by the military. The military specifically bars waterboarding, in which a prisoner is strapped down and water poured over his face, making the prisoner feel as though he is drowning.

CIA Director Michael Hayden told Congress in February that independent contractors - often former intelligence officers - have participated in interrogations that used harsh techniques.

He also confirmed that the CIA waterboarded three prisoners in 2002 and 2003. Hayden banned waterboarding in 2006 but according to the White House, it remains a potential interrogation technique, if authorized by the president with the consent of intelligence and justice officials.

President Bush vetoed the 2008 intelligence authorization bill in March because it included the same curbs on questioning techniques. This bill, if passed by the full Senate and House, would likely face the same fate.

The bill would also create an inspector general for all 16 intelligence agencies, another provision of the 2008 intelligence authorization bill that the White House opposed.

"Taken together, these provisions will go a long way toward repairing the damage done to our counterterrorism efforts by the last six years of the president's misguided policies," said the committee chairman, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

© 2008 Associated Press

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