Bush Alters Rules for CIA Interrogations

The Associated Press
Saturday, July 21, 2007; 1:27 AM

WASHINGTON -- President Bush breathed new life into the CIA's terror interrogation program Friday in an executive order that would allow harsh questioning of suspects, limited in public only by a vaguely worded ban on cruel and inhuman treatment.

The order bars some practices such as sexual abuse, part of an effort to quell international criticism of some of the CIA's most sensitive and debated work. It does not say what practices would be allowed.

The executive order is the White House's first public effort to reach into the CIA's five-year-old terror detention program, which has been in limbo since a Supreme Court decision last year called its legal foundation into question.

Officials would not provide any details on specific interrogation techniques that the CIA may use under the new order. In the past, its methods are believed to have included sleep deprivation and disorientation, exposing prisoners to uncomfortable cold or heat for long periods, stress positions and _ most controversially _ the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding.

The Bush administration has portrayed the interrogation operation as one of its most successful tools in the war on terror, while opponents have said the agency's techniques have left a black mark on the United States' reputation around the world.

Bush's order requires that CIA detainees "receive the basic necessities of life, including adequate food and water, shelter from the elements, necessary clothing, protection from extremes of heat and cold, and essential medical care."

A senior intelligence official would not comment directly when asked if waterboarding would be allowed under the new order and under related _ but classified _ legal documents drafted by the Justice Department.

However, the official said, "It would be wrong to assume the program of the past transfers to the future."

A second senior administration official acknowledged sleep is not among the basic necessities outlined in the order.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the order more freely.

Skeptical human rights groups did not embrace Bush's effort.

Tom Malinowski, Washington director for Human Rights Watch, said the broad outlines in the public order don't matter. The key is in the still-classified guidance distributed to CIA officers.

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