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Bush Defends Push to Clarify Geneva Convention

President Bush says opposition from some senators in his own political party could shut down a terrorist interrogation program that he says is crucial to protecting the nation.

President Bush says Congress must act to save a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) interrogation program that he says has helped disrupt terrorist plots, including planned strikes inside the United States and on a U.S. Marine base in East Africa, an American consulate in Pakistan, and Britain's Heathrow Airport.

Mr. Bush says the previously-secret program is in jeopardy because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that military commissions the president wants to use to put suspected terrorists on trial must be authorized by Congress.

So the president is pushing legislation to allow classified evidence to be withheld from defendants during their trials. He wants coerced testimony to be allowed as evidence, and he wants U.S. interrogators to be protected from prosecution for using methods that might violate the Geneva Conventions.

But some senior Republican senators disagree. They say those rules do not meet constitutional standards outlined by the Supreme Court and could endanger U.S. troops overseas if other countries choose to reinterpret the Geneva Convention in their own way.

In his weekly radio address, President Bush said legislation approved by the Republican-led Senate Armed Services Committee this past week would force the CIA program to close because it does not protect U.S. interrogators from possible prosecution for violating international treaty obligations.

"There is debate about the specific proposals in this bill, and my Administration will work with Congress to find common ground," said Mr. Bush. "I have one test for this legislation: The intelligence community must be able to tell me that the bill Congress sends to my desk will allow this vital program to continue."

Republican senators opposed to the president's plan, led by former prisoner of war John McCain, have been joined by former Secretary of State Colin Powell who this past week wrote that the president's actions would encourage the world to doubt the moral basis of America's fight against terrorism.