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Senate aide: White House changing its CIA interrogation bill

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House is trying a new tactic in its battle with Senate Republicans over proposed interrogation rules for suspected terrorists.

John Ullyot, a spokesman for Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner, said Monday that draft legislation was headed to Capitol Hill with "new language," for its proposal that would allow the CIA to continue alternative interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists. No details of the changes were announced.

The news comes after powerful Republican senators defied President Bush last week and voted against White House backed legislation aimed at detainees held at the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Warner, two other Republican senators and former Secretary of State Colin Powell say it's an interpretation that could threaten the safety of U.S. forces overseas.

On Friday, Bush said the CIA interrogation program would stop unless Congress approved the White House legislation. Bush says the program has helped thwart terrorist attacks on the United States. (Watch two sides state their cases on interrogations -- 1:54)

Warner, of Virginia, and two other GOP senators on the committee, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have led the fight against the Bush administration's plan to "clarify" what U.S. law considers acceptable treatment of prisoners under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.

Article 3 prohibits nations engaged in combat from "violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture" and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment." (Read the full text of Article 3)

Ullyot said Warner, Graham and McCain will have a "night of reading" and hope to have a response to the new proposal on Tuesday, when Vice President Dick Cheney is expected to be on Capitol Hill for a regular meeting with GOP senators.

President Bush and other top officials have said the changes are needed to give clear guidelines and legal protection to CIA interrogators. Bush said earlier this month that he has authorized "tough" techniques on suspected al Qaeda figures -- methods he won't disclose but insists are within U.S. law banning torture. (Watch as President Bush insists CIA must be allowed to be tough on suspects -- 3:16)

The senators, backed by three former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, argue that redefining the Geneva Conventions' language barring "humiliating treatment and outrages upon personal dignity" would spur other countries to do the same, putting captured American troops in jeopardy.

National security adviser Stephen Hadley said Sunday that a compromise might be possible without changing the Geneva Conventions, the international standards for treating prisoners. But he said the agents taking part in the interrogation program "deserve clear legal standards and clear congressional support."

Bush said Friday that he wouldn't continue the program, which he credited with breaking up terrorist plots and saving American lives, without the measures he has put before Congress. (Full story)

The intraparty squabble comes as many GOP incumbents are using the war on terrorism as a campaign issue in hopes of keeping control of Congress after midterm elections, which are weeks away.

It is unclear if Congress and Bush can agree and pass legislation before Congress is set to adjourn in two weeks.

CNN's Andrea Koppel and Lisa Goddard contributed to this report.

GOP senators disagree with Bush about how terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay should be handled.



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