Gonzales excludes CIA from rules on prisoners

By Eric Lichtblau The New York Times

01/20/05 "IHT"
-- WASHINGTON Officers of the Central Intelligence Agency and other nonmilitary personnel fall outside the bounds of a 2002 directive issued by President George W. Bush that pledged the humane treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody, Alberto Gonzales, the White House counsel, said in a document.

In written responses to questions posed by senators as part of their consideration of his nomination to be attorney general, Gonzales also said a separate congressional ban on cruel, unusual and inhumane treatment had "a limited reach" and did not apply in all cases to "aliens overseas."

That position has clear implications for prisoners held in U.S. custody at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and in Iraq, legal analysts said.

At the same time, however, the president has a clear policy opposing torture, and "the CIA and other nonmilitary personnel are fully bound" by it, Gonzales said.

The administration's views on torture and the treatment of prisoners have been the focus of the confirmation process for Gonzales, and several senators had pressed him for a fuller explanation, unsatisfied with the answers he gave at his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

His written responses, totaling more than 200 pages on torture and other questions and made public Tuesday by the committee's Democrats, offered one of the administration's most expansive statements of its positions on a variety of issues, particularly regarding laws and policies governing CIA interrogation of terror suspects.

Gonzales's acknowledgment that the White House did not consider the CIA bound by the same rules as military personnel is significant because the intelligence agency has used some of the government's most aggressive and controversial tactics in the interrogating of detainees.

Martin Lederman, a former Justice Department lawyer who has analyzed the administration's legal positions on treatment of prisoners, said the documents made it clear that the White House had carved an exemption for the CIA in how it goes about interrogating terror suspects, allowing the agency to engage in conduct outside the United States that would be unconstitutionally abusive within its borders. Although the CIA has been largely bound by congressional bans on torture, Lederman said that standard was more permissive than the 2002 directive from Bush.

Last month, at the urging of the White House, congressional leaders scrapped a legislative measure that would have imposed new restrictions on the use of extreme interrogation measures by intelligence officers at the CIA and elsewhere. Gonzales said in the newly released answers that he had not been involved in the lobbying effort.

"But it's notable," Lederman added, "that Gonzales is not willing to tell the senators or anyone else just what techniques the CIA has actually been authorized to use."

Indeed, Gonzales declined to say in his written responses to the committee what interrogation tactics would constitute torture in his view or which ones should be banned.

Some Democrats said they remained unsatisfied with Gonzales's responses. "This was another missed opportunity for straight answers and accountability," said Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont.

IHT Copyright © 2005 The International Herald Tribune

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