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White House Says US Does Not Torture


The Bush administration is defending itself against reports that it authorized harsher techniques to interrogate suspected terrorists than it has previously acknowledged. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

The New York Times says a February 2005 opinion by the U.S. Justice Department authorized a combination of physical and psychological tactics including head slapping, simulated drowning, and exposure to extreme temperatures.

That previously-undisclosed opinion came three months after a separate, publicized opinion that declared torture abhorrent.

In a written statement Thursday, the Justice Department said the December 2004 opinion remains binding and all interrogation practices are fully consistent with anti-torture statues.

White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino confirmed the existence of the February 2005 opinion, but she says all procedures used by U.S. interrogators are tough, safe, necessary, and lawful.

"The policy of the United States is not to torture," Perino said. "The president has not authorized it. He will not authorize it. But he has done everything within the corners of the law to make sure that we prevent another attack on this country, which is what we have done in this administration."

Perino says she will not comment specifically as to whether simulated drowning constitutes torture because discussing any specific interrogation techniques would allow the enemy to train against them.

Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy says, once again, Americans and people around the world are revolted by what he says is the Bush administration's refusal to reject cruel and degrading treatment of detainees.

"It would be bad enough if this administration had disgraced itself and this country by engaging in cruel and degrading treatment of detainees," Kennedy said. "It's worse still that it enlisted the Justice Department in the effort to justify and cover-up its activities."

Senator Kennedy says he is sponsoring legislation to apply the standards of the army field manual to all U.S. government interrogations, including the Central Intelligence Agency.

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee say they will investigate the matter. They want the Justice Department to turn over the February 2005 memo as well as a separate opinion later that year that found that no CIA interrogation methods violate congressional standards forbidding cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

The New York Times story again raises the issue of Bush administration interrogation practices as the Senate prepares to begin confirmation hearings for Judge Michael Mukasey to replace Alberto Gonzales as attorney general.