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Inside Politics

White House dismisses report it urged easing of torture limits

From Suzanne Malveaux
CNN Washington Bureau

White House
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
Acts of terror
Military Intelligence

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House dismissed as a "non-story" a report in The New York Times on Thursday that said the Bush administration tried to weaken restrictions governing "extreme interrogation" techniques.

In its Thursday editions, The New York Times reported that as recently as last month, the White House urged Congress to scrap provisions in legislation that would have imposed new limits on "extreme interrogation measures" by CIA intelligence officers.

The article cited "congressional officials" as its sources.

The Times reported that the Senate voted 96 to 2 for the intelligence bill, which would have extended to intelligence officials a ban on using torture or inhumane methods of interrogation.

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan described The New York Times' account as a "non-story," saying the administration had made its concerns known about the restrictions in a letter it sent October 18 to Congress that was made public the same day.

The letter, written by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, opposed the bill on grounds that "it provides legal protections to foreign prisoners to which they are not now entitled under applicable law and policy."

The Senate had approved the restrictions as part of its intelligence legislation, but the House version did not include them, nor did the final bill.

The proposal would have required the CIA and the Pentagon to report to Congress the interrogation techniques used on their most notorious detainees, such as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks, and other alleged al Qaeda leaders.

It also would have stated explicitly that intelligence officers were prohibited from torturing high-level detainees or treating them inhumanely.

"We made it very clear that we do not condone torture," McClellan said. "The president would never authorize torture, and that applies to everyone."

McClellan said he believed the story came out of "politics and posturing."

"This is someone playing politics on the Hill," he said.

Questions continue to resurface concerning how aggressively the Bush administration has acted in protecting detainees in U.S. custody from torture and mistreatment.

This follows the U.S. military's abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and questions about treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

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