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Bush Defends US Interrogation Methods
Speaking emphatically, the president noted that "highly trained professionals" conduct any questioning. "And by the way," he said, "we have gotten information from these high-value detainees that have helped protect you."
"The American people expect their government to take action to protect them from further attack," Bush said. "And that's exactly what this government is doing. And that's exactly what we'll continue to do."
He also said the techniques used by the United States "have been fully disclosed to appropriate members of the United States Congress" _ an indirect slap at the torrent of criticism that has flowed from the Democratic-controlled Congress since the disclosure of the memos.
White House press secretary Dana Perino said those briefed on Capitol Hill "are satisfied that the policy of the United States and the practices do not constitute torture." She refused to define, however, what would be considered torture, or off-limits, in interrogations.
"I just fundamentally disagree that that would be a good thing for national security," she said. "I think the American people recognize that there are needs that the federal government has to keep certain information private in order to help their national security. ... We cannot provide more information about techniques. It's not appropriate."
CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden issued a memo to agency employees Friday that said the CIA has not withheld information from Congress and the legal opinion has not "opened the door" to harsher interrogation techniques than the law allows.
But House and Senate Democrats disagree that there is sufficient clarity on the matter, and are demanding to see the memos.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-WVa., said in a statement Friday he is "tired of these games."
"They can't say that Congress has been fully briefed while refusing to turn over key documents used to justify the legality of the program," Rockefeller said.
Another White House spokesman, meanwhile, criticized the leak of such information to the news media and questioned the motivations of those who do so.
"It's troubling," White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto said Friday. "I've had the awful responsibility to have to work with The New York Times and other news organizations on stories that involve the release of classified information. And I can tell you that every time I've dealt with any of these stories, I have felt that we have chipped away at the safety and security of America with the publication of this kind of information."
The CIA has interrogated fewer than 100 "hardened" terrorists and has used "special methods of questioning" on a third of them, according to Hayden.