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Bush Announces Veto of Waterboarding Ban
Most of the Washington debate over the CIA interrogation program has focused on waterboarding, which was used on three al-Qaeda suspects held in secret prisons in 2002 and 2003. The tactic involves strapping a prisoner to a board with their head lower than their feet, placing cloth or cellophane over the face and pouring water on their head to make them fear they are drowning.
The practice as used by the CIA bears similarities to the methods of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and by the current dicatorship in Burma, according to congressional testimony and torture experts.
But as Bush emphasized in his remarks, the program also included other coercive tactics that are forbidden in the U.S. military and widely considered unlawful among human rights advocates.
The CIA has not specified all the tactics it wants to keep using but says it no longer uses waterboarding. Bush administration officials have not ruled out using waterboarding again.
Many Democrats and human-rights groups say coercive tactics are often counterproductive and that, regardless, constitute illegal torture under U.S. and international law. Frank Donaghue, chief executive officer of Physicians for Human Rights, said many of the agency's tactics may constitute war crimes.
"America must not be scared into thinking that these 'additional' tactics are anything other than what they are -- torture," Donaghue said in a statement Saturday.
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said Bush has "compromised the moral leadership of our nation," and said the administration is ignoring the advice of military experts who oppose harsh techniques.
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Harry E. Soyster, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, suggested that those who support harsh methods simply lack experience and do not know what they are talking about. "If they think these methods work, they're woefully misinformed," Soyster said at a news briefing called in anticipation of the veto. "Torture is counterproductive on all fronts. It produces bad intelligence. It ruins the subject, makes them useless for further interrogation. And it damages our credibility around the world."
In two separate forums earlier this week, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and Navy Rear Adm. Mark H. Buzby, commander of the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, defended the efficacy of less-coercive, "rapport-building" interrogation tactics.
"We get so much dependable information from just sitting down and having a conversation and treating them like human beings in a businesslike manner," Buzby told reporters in a conference call Thursday.
Staff writer Joby Warrick contributed to this report.