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Official defends Bush's CIA limits

July 23, 2007|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The nation's spy chief, appearing Sunday in a rare broadcast interview, would not identify what CIA interrogators are allowed to do in getting information from terrorism suspects, but he tried to assure critics that torture was not used or condoned.

National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell, in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," defended a new order from President Bush that broadly outlines the limits of how suspects may be questioned in the CIA's terrorism interrogation program.

The executive order bans torture, cruel and inhumane treatment, sexual abuse, acts intended to denigrate a religion, or other degradation "beyond the bounds of human decency."

It does not, however, say what techniques are permitted during harsh questioning of suspects -- a matter of debate in the U.S. and elsewhere. McConnell would not elaborate.

"If I announce what the specific measures are, it would aid those who want to resist those measures," McConnell said.

When asked if the techniques would be troubling to the American people if the enemy used them against a U.S. citizen, McConnell said: "I would not want a U.S. citizen to go through the process. But it is not torture, and there would be no permanent damage to that citizen."

Bush's order is intended in part to quell international criticism of some of the CIA's most debated work.

Past CIA methods are believed to have included sleep deprivation and disorientation, exposing prisoners to uncomfortable cold or heat for long periods, stress positions and "water-boarding."

Without getting specific, Bush's homeland security advisor, Frances Fragos Townsend, said some techniques used earlier were no longer allowed.

"It's a different program going forward today, that's correct," she said on "Fox News Sunday".

McConnell and Townsend both said Sunday that the program had undoubtedly saved lives. Townsend said the CIA program must be sustainable when looked at from both policy and political standpoints.

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