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White House, Congress Reach Agreement on Torture Ban

15 December 2005

President Bush has reached agreement with Republican Senators on a law barring the cruel or inhuman treatment of foreign detainees in U.S. custody. The Bush administration had originally threatened to veto the measure saying it weakened the president's ability to fight the war on terrorism.

The deal leaves in place many of the provisions originally sought by Arizona Senator John McCain, whose own torture during the Vietnam War has made him a largely unassailable advocate for uniform U.S. guidelines for treating prisoners of war.

Vice President Dick Cheney lobbied Republicans against the legislation, saying prohibitions against torture already exist in U.S. law. The White House threatened to veto the entire defense appropriation bill if the measure was included.

But when the Republican-controlled House Wednesday endorsed Senator McCain's bill by a veto-proof margin, it appears the White House decided to go along.

Meeting with Senator McCain in the Oval Office Thursday, President Bush said they have both been working toward the same goal all along.

"We've been happy to work with him to achieve a common objective to make it clear to the world that this government does not torture and that we adhere to the international convention of torture whether it be here at home or abroad," said George W. Bush.

The agreement specifies procedures for interrogation in the U.S. Army Field Manual that prohibit cruel or inhuman treatment of prisoners, including torture.

Senator McCain says the Bush administration raised legitimate concerns about the rights of interrogators, and he says legislators have taken language for the uniform code for military justice to provide interrogators with legal counsel.

He says he is very pleased to have reached the agreement and now hopes to move forward to make sure that the world knows, as he says President Bush has made clear many times, that the United States does not treat detainees cruelly or inhumanely.

"We've sent a message to the world that the United States is not like the terrorists," said John McCain. "We have no brief for them. But what we are is a nation that upholds values and standards of behavior and treatment of all people no matter how evil or bad they are, and I think that this will help us enormously in wining the war for the hearts and minds of people throughout the world in the war on terror."

The deal still faces opposition from some House Republicans. Senator McCain says he hopes to get all the issues resolved in the next 24 hours.

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