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Bush Calls Handling of Detainees 'Lawful'

November 08, 2005|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

PANAMA CITY — President Bush on Monday defended the way the United States deals with terrorism suspects, noting that "we must protect ourselves in a way that is lawful" from an enemy that "wants to hurt America again."

"We are trying to disrupt their plots and plans," Bush told reporters after he met with Panamanian President Martin Torrijos. "Anything we do to that effort, to that end, in this effort, any activity we conduct, is within the law. We do not torture."

Bush was responding to a question about reports of secret U.S. detention facilities overseas and efforts by Vice President Dick Cheney to exempt the CIA from a measure that would prohibit the use of torture.

His comments came a day after Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) said the administration was making "a terrible mistake" in opposing an anti-torture amendment sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Hagel, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told ABC's "This Week" that "many Republicans" had supported the amendment. The Senate approved it last month 90 to 9, attaching it to a defense spending bill that Bush has threatened to veto if it is still part of the legislation when it reaches his desk. The House version of the bill does not include the ban.

Cheney is pushing to exempt the CIA from the torture ban in cases of "clandestine counter-terrorism operations conducted abroad" involving suspects who are not U.S. citizens. The alleged existence of secret CIA detention facilities, some of which were said to be in Eastern Europe, was first reported last week in the Washington Post.

The way prisoners in U.S. custody are treated was sharply criticized around the world after photos were released showing abuse of Iraqi suspects held at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad last year.

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