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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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Much of the debate over interrogation techniques in the war on terror is focusing on a tactic called waterboarding. But a bill passed last month outlaws the full range of harsh interrogation methods used by the Central Intelligence Agency to force terror suspects to talk.

Supporters say the law is an effort by Congress to bring moral and legal clarity to a murky corner of America's war on terror. Opponents say the bill would forewarn Al Qaeda and help them defeat tactics that US intelligence officers rely on to keep America safe.

A promised veto by President Bush may be imminent. And it does not appear there are enough votes in Congress to override such a veto. But the debate is almost certain to continue as the issue arises in high-profile legal cases.

The intelligence authorization bill, passed by the Senate 51 to 45 last month, includes a provision requiring the CIA to abide by the same interrogation procedures used by the US military and outlined in the Army Field Manual.

The action outlaws the coercive interrogation tactics secretly approved for use by the CIA against Al Qaeda suspects. Those tactics included waterboarding, which triggers a reflexive terrifying sensation of drowning.

The Army Field Manual also outlaws prolonged isolation with sensory deprivation, forced hypothermia, and sleep deprivation, among other controversial tactics.

President Bush and CIA Director Michael Hayden have defended the CIA's interrogation program. Intelligence officers need flexibility in gathering information from terror suspects that might save innocent lives, officials say. And Al Qaeda operatives should not be given advance knowledge of the techniques they may face in the interrogation room.


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