White House Insists That CIA Should Be Allowed To Continue Torture
Exception Sought in Detainee Abuse Ban
By ERIC SCHMITT
York Times" -- -- Stepping up a confrontation with the Senate
over the handling of detainees, the White House is insisting that
the Central Intelligence Agency be exempted from a proposed ban on
abusive treatment of suspected Qaeda militants and other terrorists.
The Senate defied a presidential veto threat nearly three weeks ago
and approved, 90 to 9, an amendment to a $440 billion military
spending bill that would ban the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading
treatment" of any detainee held by the United States government.
This could bar some techniques that the C.I.A. has used in some
But in a 45-minute meeting last Thursday, Vice President Dick Cheney
and the C.I.A. director, Porter J. Goss, urged Senator John McCain,
the Arizona Republican who wrote the amendment, to support an
exemption for the agency, arguing that the president needed maximum
flexibility in dealing with the global war on terrorism, said two
government officials who were briefed on the meeting. They spoke on
condition of anonymity because of the confidential nature of the
Mr. McCain rejected the proposed exemption, which stated that the
measure "shall not apply with respect to clandestine
counterterrorism operations conducted abroad, with respect to
terrorists who are not citizens of the United States, that are
carried out by an element of the United States government other than
the Department of Defense and are consistent with the Constitution
and laws of the United States and treaties to which the United
States is a party, if the president determines that such operations
are vital to the protection of the United States or its citizens
from terrorist attack."
Spokesmen for Mr. McCain, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Goss all declined to
comment on the matter Monday, citing the confidentiality of the
Human rights organizations said Monday that it was unclear whether
the language in the changes proposed by the White House meant that
the president would decide exemptions case by case or whether there
would be more of a blanket authority. But they said the
administration's proposal would seriously undermine Mr. McCain's
Elisa Massimino, Washington director of Human Rights First, formerly
the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, said the administration had
interpreted an international treaty banning torture to mean that a
prohibition against cruel and inhumane treatment did not apply to
C.I.A. actions overseas.
"That's why the McCain amendment is important, and that's why this
language they're floating now would gut it," said Ms. Massimino, who
provided a copy of the administration's proposed changes to The New
Human rights advocates said that creating parallel sets of
interrogation rules for military personnel and clandestine
intelligence operatives was impractical in the war on terrorism,
where soldiers and spies routinely cross paths on a global
battlefield and often share techniques
"They are explicitly saying, for the first time, that the
intelligence community should have the ability to treat prisoners
inhumanely," Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human
Rights Watch, said. "You can't tell soldiers that inhumane treatment
is always morally wrong if they see with their own eyes that C.I.A.
personnel are allowed to engage in it."
Mr. McCain's provision faces stiff opposition in the House, which
did not include similar language in its version of the spending
The White House has threatened to veto any bill that includes the
McCain provision, contending that it would bind the president's
hands in wartime.
But Mr. McCain has kept the pressure on as the issue moves to a
House-Senate conference committee, perhaps later this week or next.
Shortly after the Senate vote on Oct. 5, Mr. McCain's staff sent
members of the conference committee letters endorsing the provision
signed by more than two dozen retired senior military officers,
including former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and John M.
Shalikashvili, both former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The matter will probably be settled in a private meeting in the next
week or two among four senior lawmakers: Senator Ted Stevens of
Alaska and Representative C. W. Bill Young of Florida, both
Republicans; and Senator Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii and
Representative John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, both Democrats. All
are on the conference committee.
Mr. McCain originally offered his measure earlier this year, when
the Senate was working on a bill setting Pentagon policy. But
Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, scuttled that
bill, partly because of White House opposition to the amendment.
Now it appears that senators have struck a deal to revive the budget
bill for Senate floor debate and action. One of the principal
amendments that Democrats are expected to offer, sponsored by
Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, would create an independent
commission to review accusations of prisoner abuse by American
forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba and elsewhere. The White House has
also threatened a presidential veto if any bill comes to Mr. Bush's
desk that contains the provision.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
(In accordance with Title 17
U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the
included information for research and educational purposes.
Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the
originator of this article nor is Information Clearing House
endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)