Bush to Veto Congress Waterboarding (Torture) Ban
WASHINGTON — No sooner had the Democratic-led Senate has passed a legislation banning the use of the controversial waterboarding tactics against terror detainees, than the White House vowed to veto the legislation.
"The president will veto that bill," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said on Thursday, February 14, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"The United States needs the ability to interrogate effectively within the law to capture Al-Qaeda terrorists."
This came a few hours after the Senate voted 51-45 in favor of a bill that bans the use of 19 harsh interrogation techniques including waterboarding, a simulated drowning technique denounced by rights groups as torture.
The Senate vote, which fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to overcome a presidential veto, came a week after the CIA admitted using waterboarding on three terror suspects in its custody.
The practice, a staple of brutal interrogations from the Spanish Inquisition to Cambodia's Khmer Rouge regime, usually consists of strapping down a captive, covering his face with a cloth and pouring water onto the cloth.
The House of Representatives passed similar legislation in December.
Human rights groups welcomed the Senate move.
"Regardless of his (Bush's) decision, today's vote is momentous," said Elisa Massimino, the Washington director of Human Rights First.
"This legislation will ensure that the US no longer employs interrogation methods it would condemn if used by our enemies against captured Americans," she added.
"We have good reason to believe that the next administration will abandon this misguided legacy of abuse and work with Congress to uphold American values and the rule of law."
Human Rights Watch also hailed the bill as "anti-torture legislation."
"Waterboarding is and always has been illegal," said Jennifer Daskal, senior HRW counterterrorism counsel.
"The president needs to listen to the Congress, and take America out of the torture business -- once and for all."
The mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo has seriously undermined America's reputation as an advocate of human rights.
"Torture is a defining issue, and it is clear that under the Bush administration, we have lost our way," said Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy.
"By applying the Field Manual's standards to all US government interrogations, Congress will bring America back from the brink -- back to our values, back to basic decency, back to the rule of law."
"There must be no doubt in the world that this great nation does not torture," added Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel.
The bill passage came as embattled Bush was battling Congress on another front in his "war on terror" tactics.
He is pressing the House of Representatives to quickly pass a controversial wiretapping legislation giving blanket legal immunity for telecom companies helping the government tap foreign telephone calls and emails.
The House version of the legislation, which Bush has threatened to veto, offers no protection for the telecommunications industry and has more restrictions on the government's power.