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Why Congress, Bush disagree on waterboarding of terror suspects

The president is likely to veto a bill outlawing such harsh interrogation methods, but the debate goes on.

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Army Field Manual proponents say the document is easily understood by young soldiers on a battlefield. In addition, they say it carries the clear moral authority of the golden rule. Soldiers are told that if they have doubts about the legality of a particular interrogation technique they should consider whether it would be legal if used against them when taken prisoner.

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General Hayden says the CIA only used waterboarding against "three hardened terrorists," and that it had been "deemed legal by the Department of Justice when it was used." He says intelligence officers were operating under the belief that additional "catastrophic" attacks were imminent and the US had limited knowledge of Al Qaeda.

Hayden says those interrogations were conducted within a strict legal framework subject to review and oversight.

One form of oversight was the videotaping of some of the interrogations. The Justice Department is now investigating the destruction by the CIA of some of those tapes.

In the meantime, some members of Congress are working to force administration officials to say on the record whether waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods are illegal.

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 27, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Maples was asked if waterboarding was consistent with human rights protections required under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. "No, sir, I don't," he said.

"Do you believe it is humane," he was asked.

"No, sir. I think it would go beyond that bound," General Maples said.

In his letter to US troops in Iraq, General Petraeus said: "What sets us apart from our enemies in this fight ... is how we behave. In everything we do, we must observe the standards and values that dictate that we treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect."

He added, "Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. That would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary."

Hayden, at the CIA, is advocating a different approach. In a written statement last month, he defended the harsh interrogations. The "CIA's terrorist interrogation program, lawful and effective, was born of necessity," he said. "The agency applied its methods of questioning when other techniques did not work and when a captured terrorist had more information that could save innocent lives."

He added that, contrary to allegations of lawlessness, the CIA program had been carefully vetted by administration lawyers. "As befits a Republic of laws, this vital counter-terror initiative rests on a strong legal foundation," he said.

Robert Mueller, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, testified in a Senate hearing on Wednesday that his agency does not feel hamstrung by its rejection of the harsh methods used by the CIA.

Rather than coercing responses to questions, FBI agents are required to develop a rapport and relationship with interrogation subjects, he said. "Our policy prohibits the use of coercive techniques," Mueller said.

The FBI director said his agents were ordered not to participate in any US government interrogations involving such techniques in the post-9/11 terror investigation. At the same time, he said, reliable information was obtained through rapport-building techniques.

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