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Inside Politics

Bush says he never authorized illegal interrogations

President questioned about prisoner abuse

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President Bush says he never authorized the use of illegal interrogation techniques.
Gallery: Abuse at Abu Ghraib prison (Contains graphic content. Viewer discretion advised.)

• Timeline: Iraq abuse case

SEA ISLAND, Georgia (CNN) -- President Bush said Thursday he never authorized the use of any interrogation techniques in the war on terrorism that would violate U.S. or international laws.

"The authorization I issued was that anything we did would conform to U.S. law and would be consistent with international treaty obligations," Bush told reporters at the G8 Summit.

The comment came in response to a question about a report prepared for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last year, which was based on an advisory opinion from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel.

CNN obtained a copy of the March 6, 2003, report, which said that in detaining al Qaeda and Taliban members, the United States was not bound by prohibitions against torture in the Geneva Conventions.

Asked whether he has seen the memos, Bush replied, "I can't remember if I've seen the memo or not." But he reiterated that he had instructed that the treatment of terror suspects stay within U.S. and international laws.

Bush was asked, "If you knew a person was in U.S. custody and had specific information about an imminent terrorist attack that could kill hundreds or even thousands of Americans, would you authorize the use of any means necessary to get that information and to save those lives?"

"What I've authorized is that we stay within U.S. law," he responded.

Questions have swirled around the issue of interrogations since the abuse of some Iraqi prisoners by U.S. military personnel came to light.

Leading up to the Iraq war, Bush said Iraqi prisoners would be treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. Rumsfeld said last month that Bush had made that instruction clear.

Earlier this week, Attorney General John Ashcroft, under heavy questioning from Democratic senators at a congressional hearing, refused to say what legal advice his department might have given others in the executive branch regarding the possible use of torture against terror suspects. But he insisted Bush did not authorize illegal techniques during interrogations.

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