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President Relents, Backs Torture Ban

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"This is a tremendous reversal of U.S. law," Wilner said. "I think this language being enacted will more than erase anything good that comes out of McCain."

Meanwhile, an unidentified Republican senator has used Senate rules to hold up approval of the intelligence authorization bill, objecting to language that would require the administration to give Congress regular reports on detainees held in secret CIA detention facilities abroad, officials said. The facilities, known in classified documents as "black sites," have stirred international controversy.

Congressional aides said the language had been accepted by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate intelligence committee.

"Yesterday, however, we were told there were Republican objections and the bill would not come up unless the amendments were removed," a staff aide said.

The White House announcement yesterday ended months of negotiations with McCain.

The discussions began seriously in July, when Vice President Cheney pulled McCain, Graham and Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) into a room off the Senate floor and sternly argued that the provision could usurp the president's authority and would interfere with his ability to protect the nation from terrorist attack.

But McCain would not budge, officials said, and after several months of tense negotiations with Cheney, he went to Bush, said congressional aides. Bush tapped national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley to take over the discussions about six weeks ago.

First, Hadley asked McCain to exempt CIA officials from the ban on harsh treatment, a move McCain rejected. Then Hadley requested language that would allow the president or the attorney general to grant waivers in extraordinary circumstances -- such as if a terrorism suspect has information about an impending attack on the United States -- which McCain also rejected, congressional aides said.

Staff writers Charles Babington, Carol D. Leonnig and Walter Pincus contributed to this report.


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