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Bush defends CIA interrogations amid party revolt

Reuters | September 16, 2006

WASHINGTON - President Bush on Saturday defended his proposals to allow tough questioning of suspected terrorists as necessary to keep Americans safe, despite a revolt in his own Republican Party over the issue.

With the U.S. Congress considering legislation on how to try and question foreign terrorist suspects, Bush is pushing a proposal to allow for what he calls "an alternative set of procedures" for CIA interrogations.

A group of powerful Republicans, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona, has endorsed legislation that would protect the rights of detainees.

McCain and other critics of the administration's proposal say it would weaken protections under the Geneva Conventions that bar inhumane treatment of prisoners. McCain is a former prisoner of war.

Bush reiterated in his weekly radio address that he would try to seek "common ground" on the legislation, but insisted the final version must allow the CIA questioning to continue because it has helped to foil plots.

"This CIA program has saved American lives, and the lives of people in other countries," Bush said.

"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," he said.

The rift among Republicans that has developed over the legislation comes as Bush has been trying to rally his party behind a push to emphasize national security ahead of congressional elections in November.

The Senate Armed Services Committee approved McCain's bill this week, while the House of Representatives has backed the president's approach.

Limited time remains for debate as Congress will recess within a few weeks to allow lawmakers to campaign for re-election.

 

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