President Bush vetoed an intelligence bill Saturday, saying he objected to provisions in it that prohibited the CIA from using harsh interrogation techniques. The bill would limit the CIA to techniques approved by the Army field manual.
The veto intensifies a conflict between the Democratic Congress and the White House, with the president saying the CIA needs greater latitude in questioning terror suspects.
"It would restrict the CIA's range of acceptable interrogation methods to those provided in the Army field manual," Bush said. "The procedures in this manual were designed for use by soldiers questioning lawful combatants captured on the battle field. They were not intended for intelligence professionals trained to question hardened terrorists."
Members of Congress argue that the practices would hurt America's international image and possibly endanger American soldiers in the field.
The bill would have banned interrogation methods like stripping prisoners naked, forcing them to perform sexual acts or to mimic sexual acts, mock executions and beating or burning prisoners. The practice of waterboarding would also be prohibited. The Army asserts information elicited from such techniques is inherently unreliable. But Bush believes otherwise.
"Limiting the CIA's interrogation methods to those in the Army field manual would be dangerous because the manual is publicly available and easily accessible on the Internet," he said. "Shortly after 9/11, we learned that key al-Qaida operatives had been trained to resist the methods outlined in the manual, and this is why we created alternative methods to question the most dangerous al-Qaida operatives."
Feelings are running deep on both sides of the issue. West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller said he believes the president is damaging the country.
"I feel very frustrated. But I feel very disappointed in the president," he said. "I'm not surprised about that because I don't think he's ever really understood all of this very well. And I feel very worried about what it's going to mean for our soldiers and our position in the world."
The Democrats do not have enough votes to override the president's veto.