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Originally published Saturday, September 16, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Bush threatens to shut CIA interrogation program

Warning that terrorists "are coming again," President Bush said Friday that he'd shut down a secret CIA interrogation program if lawmakers...

McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Warning that terrorists "are coming again," President Bush said Friday that he'd shut down a secret CIA interrogation program if lawmakers refused to give interrogators wide latitude in dealing with detainees.

"It's a dangerous world," Bush said as he prodded Congress to follow his lead in dealing with suspected terrorists. "I wish I could tell the American people, 'Don't worry about it, they're not coming again.' But they are coming again."

The president's warning came a day after a Republican-led Senate committee defied the White House and approved legislation that would prohibit abusive treatment of detainees. The bill, which the Senate Armed Services Committee endorsed 15-9, also would revise Bush's rules of evidence for trials of suspected terrorists.

The House appears headed toward approving the president's approach, but the Senate is likely to oppose him.

Bush cast the dispute as a choice between protecting the nation or leaving it vulnerable to another terrorist attack. His critics, including many retired military officers and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, say his approach violates American values, undermines the moral foundation of the war on terrorism and increases the risk U.S. prisoners of war will be abused.

Both sides say they want to clarify the CIA's obligations under the Geneva Conventions, a series of international agreements that govern the treatment of wartime prisoners. Bush's critics say his approach essentially would jettison the agreement.

"What is being billed as 'clarifying' our treaty obligations will be seen as withdrawing from the treaty obligations," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the Armed Services Committee.

Key distinctions


Differences between White House and Senate Armed Services Committee legislation on detainees:

Compliance with Geneva Conventions

White House bill says existing ban on "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" satisfies U.S. treaty obligations. Senate bill is silent on the issue.

Classified information

White House bill allows evidence to be held from a defendant if it is classified. Senate bill requires a judge to dismiss charges if evidence cannot be shared.

Coerced testimony

White House bill allows coerced testimony if deemed reliable. Senate bill excludes any testimony obtained by cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The Associated Press

The president bristled when asked about Powell's comment Thursday that "the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism."

"It's unacceptable to think that there's any kind of comparison between the behavior of the United States of America and the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve an objective," he said.

The Pentagon has banned abusive interrogations in military detention centers, but the CIA, until recently, had more latitude in its efforts to pry information from terrorism suspects.

Bush suspended the CIA interrogation program and emptied the agency's secret prisons after the Supreme Court ruled in June that the detainees are covered by the basic protections that the Geneva Conventions provide. The protections, spelled out in a provision known as Common Article 3, prohibit "outrages upon personal dignity" as well as "humiliating and degrading treatment."

The president said he would shut down the CIA interrogation program permanently if Congress didn't pass legislation that gave the agency latitude in dealing with suspects and protected interrogators from prosecution for war crimes.

When he was asked how he'd react if captive Americans were subjected to the same treatment as the CIA's prisoners, Bush said "the world would be better" if other countries observed his treatment standards.

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