Bush Announces Veto of Waterboarding Ban
Saturday, March 8, 2008; 1:47 PM
President Bush vetoed Saturday legislation meant to ban the CIA from using waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics, saying it "would take away one of the most valuable tools on the war on terror."
"This is no time for Congress to abandon practices that have a proven track record of keeping America safe," Bush said in his weekly radio address.
Congress approved an intelligence authorization bill that contains the waterboarding provision on slim majorities, far short of the two-thirds needed to override a presidential veto.
Bush's long-expected veto reignites the Washington debate over the proper limits of U.S. interrogation policies and whether the CIA has engaged in torture by subjecting prisoners to severe tactics, including waterboarding, a type of simulated drowning.
The issue also has potential ramifications for Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and a longtime critic of coercive interrogation tactics who nonetheless backed the Bush administration in opposing the CIA waterboarding ban. The Democratic presidential candidates, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.), both support the ban, though neither was present for last month's Senate vote for the bill that Bush is to veto.
"It is shameful that George Bush and John McCain lack the courage to ban torture," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean.
McCain has said that, while he opposes waterboarding, he agrees with the Bush administration that the CIA needs to be able to use tactics banned by the military but which fall short of torture or cruel treatment.
The legislation would have limited the CIA to 19 less-aggressive tactics outlined in a U.S. Army field manual on interrogations. Besides ruling out waterboarding, that restriction would effectively ban temperature extremes, extended forced standing and other harsh methods that the CIA used on al-Qaeda prisoners after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The president said in his radio address that the agency needs to use tougher methods than the U.S. military to wrest information from terrorism suspects.
"Limiting the CIA's interrogation methods to those in the Army Field Manual would be dangerous because the manual is publicly available and easily accessible on the Internet. . . . If we were to shut down this program and restrict the CIA to methods in the Field Manual, we could lose vital information from senior al-Qaeda terrorists, and that could cost American lives," Bush said.
CIA Director Michael V. Hayden has also spoken out against the Senate bill and defended the methods as lawful and effective.
"The US Army and CIA clearly have different missions, different capabilities and therefore different procedures," Hayden wrote in a message sent Saturday to CIA employees. "CIA's program, atightly controlled and carefully administered national option that goes beyond the Army Field Manual, has been a lawful and effective response to the national security demands that terrorism imposes."