Bush Approves New CIA Methods
Saturday, July 21, 2007
President Bush set broad legal boundaries for the CIA's harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects yesterday, allowing the intelligence agency to resume a program that was suspended last year after criticism that it violated U.S. and international law.
In an executive order lacking any details about actual interrogation techniques, Bush said the CIA program will now comply with a Geneva Conventions prohibition against "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." His order, required by legislation signed in October, was delayed for months amid tense debate inside the administration.
"We can now focus on our vital work, confident that our mission and authorities are clearly defined," CIA Director Michael V. Hayden said in a statement to agency employees. Although human rights groups have alleged that CIA interrogators used torturous and illegal methods, Hayden said the program had gleaned "irreplaceable" information from terrorism detainees.
Two administration officials said that suspects now in U.S. custody could be moved immediately into the "enhanced interrogation" program and subjected to techniques that go beyond those allowed by the U.S. military.
Rights activists criticized Bush's order for failing to spell out which techniques are now approved or prohibited. It said instead that CIA interrogators cannot undertake prohibited acts such as torture and murder, and it barred religious denigration and humiliating or degrading treatment "so serious that any reasonable person, considering the circumstances, would deem" it "beyond the bounds of human decency." Detainees, it said, must be provided with "the basic necessities of life," including adequate food and water, clothing, essential medical care, and "protection from extremes of heat and cold."
"All the order really does is to have the president say, 'Everything in that other document that I'm not showing you is legal -- trust me,' " said Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch.
The CIA interrogation guidelines are contained in a classified document. A senior intelligence official, asked whether this list includes such widely criticized methods as the simulated drowning known as "waterboarding," declined to discuss specifics but said "it would be very wrong to assume that the program of the past would move into the future unchanged."
CIA detainees have also alleged they were left naked in cells for prolonged periods, subjected to sensory and sleep deprivation and extreme heat and cold, and sexually taunted. A senior administration officials briefing reporters yesterday said that any future use of "extremes of heat and cold" would be subject to a "reasonable interpretation . . . we're not talking about forcibly induced hypothermia."
Congressional reaction to the order was muted, as key lawmakers said they were only informed of its contents yesterday. Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and John W. Warner (Va.), who helped draft legislation last year requiring the executive order, issued a joint statement that they needed more information before making a judgment. They said the administration has not responded to the questions they asked during a recent briefing on the new order and the detainee program.
Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said it was unclear what the order "really means and how it will translate into actual conduct by the CIA." In a statement, Rockefeller repeated a committee demand made last spring that the White House turn over a copy of the Justice Department's legal analysis of the new guidelines.
Similar demands for internal documents related to the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program have been rebuffed by the White House.
The steps leading to yesterday's order began with Bush's determination in January 2002 that members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, as well as other allegedly terrorist captives, were "enemy combatants" rather than prisoners of war covered by the 1949 Geneva Conventions.