Congress to Clash With Bush Over 'Torture' Technique

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The Guardian/UK

Congress to Clash With Bush Over 'Torture' Technique

by
Mark Tran

Congress is set to clash with George Bush on the contentious practice of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques as it prepares legislation on intelligence funding.1206 04

Senate and House officials have included the ban on waterboarding - condemned by human rights groups as a form of torture - in their respective bills authorising 2008 spending for intelligence programmes, the Associated Press reported.

The move would set up another veto fight with Bush, who last summer issued an executive order allowing the CIA to use "enhanced interrogation techniques" that go beyond what is allowed in the 2006 army field manual.

The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 prohibited cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment for all detainees in US custody, including CIA prisoners. The CIA director, Michael Hayden, last year prohibited waterboarding, which simulates near-drowning, but has been publicly silent on other interrogation techniques.

In a speech in September to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Hayden said he did not believe the CIA should be constrained by military interrogation rules. "It's clear that what it is we do as agency is different from what is contained in the army field manual," he said. "The CIA handles a very small number of senior al-Qaida leaders."

Hayden argued that CIA interrogators were older and as a rule better trained than military interrogators. "We weren't consulted about the army field manual, and no one ever claimed that the army field manual exhausted all the lawful tools that America could have to protect itself," he said.

The 384-page manual prohibits waterboarding and sensory deprivation. Prisoners may not be hooded or have duct tape put across their eyes. They may not be stripped naked or forced to perform or mimic sexual acts.

They may not be beaten, given electric shocks, burned or otherwise physically hurt. They may not be subjected to hypothermia or mock executions. The manual does not allow food, water or medical treatment to be withheld, and dogs may not be used in any aspect of interrogation.

The CIA has used waterboarding on three prisoners since the September 11 2001 attacks but none since 2003, according to officials.

The US vice-president, Dick Cheney, sparked a furore last year when he spoke in favour of waterboarding. In a radio interview, Cheney agreed that subjecting prisoners to "a dunk in water" was a "no-brainer" if it could save lives.

After being asked about this technique, he said that such interrogations have been a "very important tool" used against high-level al-Qaida detainees such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and that they did not, in his view, constitute torture.

Waterboarding, which dates at least to the Spanish Inquisition, has been used by regimes such as the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. In some versions, prisoners are strapped to a board, their faces covered with cloth or cellophane, and water is poured over their mouths to stimulate drowning; in others, they are dunked head-first into water.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

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