White House Pushes on for Torture Exemption as House Stalls Vote

New Standard News

The president and vice president continue an effort to prod lawmakers into freeing the Central Intelligence Agency from restrictions on torturing detainees in its custody. The pressure comes as House Republicans last week delayed a vote on a measure prohibiting torture by any US agent or employee.

Early last month, the Senate overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the $445 billion military appropriations bill that specifically bans interrogation methods prohibited under Army regulations and the Geneva Conventions.

Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois), speaker of the House, has yet to put a committee into place to consider the Senate bill, the New York Times reported.

In a letter sent late last month, fifteen House Republicans came out in support of the provision, which was sponsored by Senator John McCain (R-Arizona). The letter followed efforts by Vice President Dick Cheney to insert an exemption for the Central Intelligence Agency into the bill.

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that Cheney has been engaged in an ongoing effort to keep extreme interrogation methods legal for CIA personnel. The efforts date back at least to last winter, when the vice president urged Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) to drop plans to have the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence investigate CIA interrogation practices, the Post reported.

According to the Post, Cheney recently attempted to persuade lawmakers at a Senate lunch to back an amendment to the McCain bill.

Following Cheney’s actions, the Senate added McCain’s measure to another defense bill and, in a Senate floor speech, McCain promised to “add it to every piece of important legislation voted on in the Senate.”

Last week, new reports alleging that the CIA is running a secret web of prisons across the globe surfaced, prompting a fresh round of condemnations from humanitarian groups and calls for investigations here and abroad.

In a statement Monday, Human Rights Watch said it has evidence that the CIA transported prisoners between Afghanistan and Poland and Romania in 2003. The group says the US had been using the Romanian airfield since 2002, an allegation denied by Romanian officials.

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