Democrats and human rights advocates criticized President Bush's veto Saturday of a bill that would have banned the CIA from using simulated drowning and other coercive interrogation methods to gain information from suspected terrorists.
Bush said such tactics have helped foil terrorist plots. His critics likened some methods to torture and said they sullied America's reputation around the world.
"This president had the chance to end the torture debate for good, yet he chose instead to leave the door open to use torture in the future," said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
She said Bush ignored the advice of 43 retired generals and admirals and 18 national security experts, including former secretaries of state and national security advisers, who supported the bill.
"Torture is a black mark against the United States," she said.
The bill would have limited the CIA to 19 interrogation techniques that are used by the military and spelled out in the Army Field Manual. Bush said he vetoed the measure because it is important for the CIA to have a separate and classified interrogation program for suspected terrorists who possess critical information about possible plots against the United States.
This article has an interesting revelation about his rationale:
While President Bush says the United States does not use torture, he says the CIA must be able to use what he calls safe and lawful interrogation procedures that are outside the boundaries set by the Army Field Manual. "The procedures in this manual were designed for use by soldiers questioning lawful combatants captured on the battlefield. They were not intended for intelligence professionals trained to question hardened terrorists," he said.
Who here thinks that "hardened terrorists"--which are basically a motley group of rag-tag, generic citizens with murderous intent--are going to be more capable of withholding information under interrogation than "lawful combatants"--i.e., military soldiers professionally trained by their governments, whose regimen almost certainly includes how to not answer questions?
Oh, and when Bush says that the CIA's ability to torture people has already prevented al Qaida from killing you in your sleep? Well, Senator Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says that's the first he's heard of it:
"I have heard nothing to suggest that information obtained from enhanced interrogation techniques has prevented an imminent terrorist attack. And I have heard nothing that makes me think the information obtained from these techniques could not have been obtained through traditional interrogation methods used by military and law enforcement interrogators." — Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
(By the way, that article also has Barack Obama's response to this travesty:)
"I believe that we must reject torture without equivocation because it does not make us safe, it results in unreliable intelligence, it puts our troops at risk, and it contradicts core American values." — Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
One other statement from Bush that struck me as odd:
"I cannot sign into law a bill that would prevent me, and future presidents, from authorizing the CIA to conduct a separate, lawful intelligence program, and from taking all lawful actions necessary to protect Americans from attack," Bush said in a statement.
Those "lawful" modifiers make this statement completely ludicrous. The bill wouldn't prevent the CIA from doing anything lawful--it would just make explicit what is definitely not lawful. Your attorney general's opinions to the contrary, torture is not--and should not be--legal, either here or abroad.
Anyways. Amnesty International had a good response to all this:
"President Bush's veto, in essence, spat on domestic and international law and compromised human rights to justify illegal, ineffective and immoral practices.
"The Bush administration continues its stubborn and reckless disregard for basic decency and values the United States should model. The president's action further compounds the incalculable damage to United States' standing at home and abroad.
"While asserting that the United States 'does not torture,' as he vetoes anti-torture legislation, President Bush's rhetoric rings more hollow than ever."