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Democrats, rights groups criticize Bush veto of waterboarding ban

[JURIST] Democratic members of both the US House and Senate have criticized President George Bush's Saturday veto [JURIST report] of a bill [HR 2082 materials] that would have prohibited the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] from using waterboarding [JURIST report] and other interrogation techniques not explicitly authorized by the 2006 Army Field Manual. In an op-ed [text] in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Senators Dianne Feinstien (D-CA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) [official websites] wrote:

Waterboarding and the excesses at Abu Ghraib are a black mark against the United States. It undermines our fight against terror, conflicts sharply with our national values, does not produce better intelligence than more traditional techniques, and sullies our worldwide reputation.

We have been moved by the heartfelt testimony of so many senior military commanders concerned about what this means for the safety of American troops. The United States simply cannot use interrogation methods that we would find unacceptable if used against our own troops. This principle is part of the Army Field Manual.
Human rights groups Physicians for Human Rights and Human Rights First [press releases] also criticized the veto, saying the techniques the bill would have banned have "devastating, long-term mental and physical consequences," on those they are used against. The two groups have co-published a paper [PDF text; executive summary, PDF] on the legality and medical after-effects of so-called "enhanced" interrogation techniques.

President Bush announced he had vetoed the bill in his weekly radio address [transcript; recorded audio], saying the availability of techniques outside those allowed in Army Field Manual 2-22.3 [PDF text; press release] was crucial to the effective interrogation of terrorism suspects, and that banning them would put the country at higher risk of attack. The House of Representatives agreed to the measure in December 2007, and the Senate approved the bill [JURIST reports] in February, but it failed to garner the two-thirds majority that would have been required to override a presidential veto. AP has more. The International Herald Tribune has additional coverage.

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