Al-Jazeera and Agencies – 2008-03-08 21:37:34
Bush Vetoes Waterboarding Ban
WASHINGTON (March 8, 2008) — The US president has vetoed legislation passed by congress that would have banned the CIA from using waterboarding and other interrogation techniques.
George Bush announced his decision to quash the planned anti-torture measures, included in a broader bill authorising US intelligence activities, in his weekly radio address on Saturday.
“Because the danger remains, we need to ensure our intelligence officials have all the tools they need to stop the terrorists,” Bush said, adding the vetoed legislation “would diminish these vital tools.”
The House of Representatives approved the legislation in December and the Senate passed it in February, despite White House warnings it would be vetoed.
The simulated drowning technique has been condemned by many members of congress, human rights groups and other countries as a form of illegal torture.
Michael Hayden, director of the CIA, told congress last month that government interrogators used waterboarding on three suspects captured after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre.
The US Army field manual prohibits waterboarding and seven other interrogation methods and the bill would have aligned CIA practices with that of the military.
In a message to CIA employees on Saturday after Bush’s veto, Hayden said the CIA would continue to work strictly within the law but said its needs were different from that of the army.
The memo said the CIA needed to follow its own procedures. In his remarks, Bush did not specifically mention waterboarding.
“The bill congress sent me would not simply ban one particular interrogation method, as some have implied,” Bush said.
“Instead, it would eliminate all the alternative procedures we’ve developed to question the world’s most dangerous and violent terrorists.”
It is unlikely that Democrats, the majority party in congress, could muster enough votes to overturn Bush’s veto.
Facts on Waterboarding
• Variations include pouring water over face covered with cloth or cellophane, or dunking headfirst into water
• Induces reflexive choking, gagging and feelings of suffocation
• Dates back to the Spanish Inquisition
• Used in central and south America 30 years ago
• Bush denies US using torture, but refuses to disclose authorised interrogation methods
US Senate Backs Waterboarding Ban
WASHINGTON (February 13, 2008) — The US senate has voted to ban the CIA from using waterboarding, the interrogation method that simulates drowning, and other harsh questioning techniques.
The senate approved the bill that restricts the CIA to the 19 interrogation methods specified by the US army, despite a warning from the US president that he would use his veto.
The bill, which the House of Representatives approved in December, was passed 51-45 by the senate.
Michael Hayden, the CIA’s director, has said waterboarding may not be legal under current law.
But George Bush, the US president, has threatened to veto any bill that limits CIA interrogation techniques.
Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, said: “For a number of reasons, the president’s advisers would recommend a veto of this bill. Parts of this bill are inconsistent with the effective conduct of intelligence gathering.”
John McCain, the leading Republican presidential candidate and an author of previous anti-torture legislation, voted against the overall bill.
“I made it very clear that I think that waterboarding is torture and illegal, but I will not restrict the CIA to only the army field manual,” McCain said on Wednesday.
Last week, Hayden admitted waterboarding had been used on three al-Qaeda suspects, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was charged this week in relation to the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York.
Hayden told congress last week that waterboarding may no longer be legal, but the White House has refused to rule out using it again.
Michael Mukasey, the US attorney-general, has refused to rule on whether waterboarding is legal, saying he will do so only if US intelligence services ask to use it again.
Waterboarding has been widely condemned by human rights groups and other countries as a form of torture.
House Defies Bush on Waterboarding
WASHINGTON (December 14, 2008) — US legislators have outlawed harsh interrogation methods used on suspects including simulated drowning, also known as waterboarding, despite George Bush’s threat to veto the decision in the senate.
On Thursday the Democratic-led House of Representatives voted 222-199 to pass a measure that requires intelligence agents to comply with the Army Field Manual in line with international conventions that ban torture in the treatment of prisoners.
The manual provides 19 approved interrogation methods, and prohibits eight including waterboarding.
The White House argued that the new measure would prevent the US from conducting “lawful interrogations of senior al-Qaeda terrorists”.
The move, part of a sweeping intelligence bill, comes amid a congressional probe into the recent disclosure that the CIA destroyed videotapes of al-Qaeda suspects undergoing simulated drowning.
The US president has denied the torture of suspect but refuses to disclose the approved interrogation methods employed by the Central Intelligence Agency.
Steny Hoyer, the House Democratic Leader, said the Bush administration had blurred the line “between legitimate, sanctioned interrogation tactics and torture”.
“There is no doubt our international reputation has suffered and been stained as a result.”
Backers of harsh interrogation say such methods are needed to pry vital information out of enemy combatants but critics decry torture as inhumane saying information obtained in this way is often unreliable.
Meanwhile, the US military has released two Sudanese men from Guantanamo Bay prison after nearly five years.
Adel Hassan Hamad, an aid worker, said the condition of fellow Sudanese inmate Sami al Hajj, who worked for Al Jazeera, was “very bad indeed”.
Top US Official: Waterboarding ‘May Be Illegal’
WASHINGTON (February 7, 2008) — The use of simulated drowning for the interrogation of al-Qaeda suspects may be illegal under current US law, the senior US intelligence chief has said.
Michael Hayden, director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, said on Thursday that it was “not certain” that the technique would be considered to be lawful under contemporary statutes.
“It’s not a technique that I’ve asked for, it’s not included in the current programme,” he told the US House Intelligence Committee.
The news comes a day after the White House said that it would still consider using the technique, known as waterboarding, if US lives were deemed to be at risk.
Waterboarding, an interrogation method which involved simulated drowning, is considered inhumane by many human rights organisations.
The CIA acknowledged this week that it had used the practice on three al-Qaeda suspects captured in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attacks.
Hayden told the committee that the circumstances that led to the use of harsh interrogation techniques five years ago were “fairly unique” and “historic”.
He said they were spurred by a belief in the intelligence community that more attacks were imminent and that there was a poor understanding of al-Qaeda.
However, since then the legal landscape has changed following a supreme court decision about detainee rights and new laws and policies about how they are treated, Hayden said.
He also acknowledged that private contractors had been used in the interrogations, but said they were “bound by the same rules in force on the officers of the CIA”.
Also on Thursday Michael Mukasey, the US attorney-general, said that he would not investigate whether US interrogators broke the law when waterboarding people accused of terrorism following the September 11 attacks.
“Whatever was done as part of a CIA programme at the time that it was done, was the subject of a department of justice opinion through the Office of Legal Counsel and was found to be permissible under the law as it existed then,” Mukasey told the House Judiciary Committee.
The three al-Qaeda suspects are Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.
Mohammed has claimed to be the operational mastermind behind the September 11 attacks in the US, while Abu Zubaydah is alleged to have been an aide to Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader.
Al-Nashiri is said to have been the operational commander of the suicide attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000.
The justice department has long resisted exposing the Bush administration and its employees to criminal or civil charges or even international war crimes if waterboarding is declared illegal.
On Wednesday the White House said that George Bush, the US president, could authorise waterboarding for future terror suspects in certain situations, including “belief that an attack might be imminent”.
The president would first consult with the attorney-general and intelligence officials before authorising its use, a White House spokesman said.
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