Bush Demands Freedom to Torture

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, December 14, 2007; 12:50 PM

President Bush's repeated insistence that "we don't torture" appeared even more transparently bogus yesterday as the White House threatened to veto a House bill that would explicitly ban a variety of abhorrent practices.

The bill would require U.S. intelligence agencies to follow interrogation rules adopted by the armed forces last year.

What does that mean? As Pamela Hess writes for the Associated Press, those rules explicitly prohibit "forcing detainees to be naked, perform sexual acts, or pose in a sexual manner; placing hoods or sacks over detainees' heads or duct tape over their eyes; beating, shocking, or burning detainees; threatening them with military dogs; exposing them to extreme heat or cold; conducting mock executions; depriving them of food, water, or medical care; and waterboarding."

Administration officials have consistently refused to confirm or deny whether any of those methods have been sanctioned by the White House and are in use. But really all you need to know is this: According to yesterday's formal statement of administration policy, limiting intelligence agencies to the army rules "would prevent the United States from conducting lawful interrogations of senior al Qaeda terrorists to obtain intelligence needed to protect Americans from attack."

The White House then asserted, without a scintilla of evidence (see Tuesday's column): "Such interrogations have helped the United States disrupt multiple attacks against Americans at home and abroad, thus saving American lives."

Joby Warrick and Walter Pincus write in The Washington Post that the legislation's passage "set[s] up another political showdown over what constitutes torture. . . .

"The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 made the Army Field Manual applicable to all Defense Department employees, but it left a loophole allowing the CIA to use aggressive techniques barred by that document. . . .

"Retired Army Gen. Paul J. Kern, a lead investigator of the abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, said he thinks that having two sets of standards for interrogation -- one for the CIA and another for the military -- has created problems of credibility and accountability. Kern, who signed a letter along with 27 other retired general officers asking the intelligence committees to hold the CIA to the military's rules, endorsed the standards set by the military.

"'We ought to have one set of standards, period,' Kern said."

The Contempt Conundrum

Paul Kane writes in The Washington Post: "A Senate panel found former presidential adviser Karl Rove and current White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten in contempt of Congress yesterday for refusing to testify and to turn over documents in the investigation of the firings of nine U.S. attorneys last year.

"The Senate Judiciary Committee approved contempt citations against Rove and Bolten on a 12 to 7 vote, rejecting the White House position that the work of two of President Bush's closest advisers is covered by executive privilege. . . .

"Two senior Republicans, Sens. Arlen Specter (Pa.) and Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), supported the contempt charges. . . .

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