Police state : torture : Cheney seeks to exempt CIA


Richard Moore

    "This is the first time they've said explicitly that the
    intelligence community should be allowed to treat
    prisoners inhumanely"... 


Cheney Plan Exempts CIA From Bill Barring Abuse of Detainees 

By R. Jeffrey Smith and Josh White 
Washington Post Staff Writers 
Tuesday, October 25, 2005; A01 

The Bush administration has proposed exempting employees
of the Central Intelligence Agency from a legislative
measure endorsed earlier this month by 90 members of the
Senate that would bar cruel and degrading treatment of any
prisoners in U.S. custody.

The proposal, which two sources said Vice President Cheney
handed last Thursday to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the
company of CIA Director Porter J. Goss, states that the
measure barring inhumane treatment shall not apply to
counterterrorism operations conducted abroad or to
operations conducted by "an element of the United States
government" other than the Defense Department.

Although most detainees in U.S. custody in the war on
terrorism are held by the U.S. military, the CIA is said
by former intelligence officials and others to be holding
several dozen detainees of particular intelligence
interest at locations overseas -- including senior al
Qaeda figures Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaida.

Cheney's proposal is drafted in such a way that the
exemption from the rule barring ill treatment could
require a presidential finding that "such operations are
vital to the protection of the United States or its
citizens from terrorist attack." But the precise
applicability of this section is not clear, and none of
those involved in last week's discussions would discuss it
openly yesterday.

McCain, the principal sponsor of the legislation, rejected
the proposed exemption at the meeting with Cheney,
according to a government source who spoke without
authorization and on the condition of anonymity. McCain
spokeswoman Eileen McMenamin declined to comment. But the
exemption has been assailed by human rights experts
critical of the administration's handling of detainees in
Iraq and Afghanistan.

"This is the first time they've said explicitly that the
intelligence community should be allowed to treat
prisoners inhumanely," said Tom Malinowski, the Washington
advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "In the past,
they've only said that the law does not forbid inhumane
treatment." Now, he said, the administration is saying
more concretely that it cannot be forbidden.

The provision in question -- which the Senate on Oct. 5
voted 90 to 9 to attach to its version of the pending
defense appropriations bill over the administration's
opposition -- essentially proscribes harsh treatment of
any detainees in U.S. custody or control anywhere in the
world. It was specifically drafted to close what its
backers say is a loophole in the administration's policy
of generally barring torture, namely its legal contention
that these constraints do not apply to treatment of
foreigners on foreign soil.

The House version of the appropriations bill contains no
similar provision on detainee treatment, and lawmakers are
to meet later this week to begin reconciling the conflict.

Cheney's meeting with McCain last week was his third
attempt to persuade the lawmaker, a former prisoner of war
in Vietnam, to accept a less broad legislative bar against
inhumane treatment. Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride
declined to comment, saying, "the vice president does not
discuss private conversations that he has with members [of
Congress] . . . or information that may be exchanged with

She added that the intent of such meetings is usually "to
build consensus on legislative issues, still in the
policymaking process." CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Millerwise
Dyck, a former Cheney aide, said the agency does not
comment on the director's meetings.

Other sources said the vice president is also still
fighting a second provision of the Senate-passed
legislation, which requires that detainees in Defense
Department custody anywhere in the world may be subjected
only to interrogation techniques approved and listed in
the Army's Field Manual.

The manual is undergoing revision, and McCain has
contended that this process will give the military
sufficient flexibility to respond to terrorist
countermeasures. But Cheney's office has argued in talking
points being circulated on Capitol Hill that the manual
"will be inapplicable in certain instances" because of
such countermeasures.

The CIA has been implicated in a number of alleged abuses
in Iraq and has been linked to at least a few cases in
which detainees have died during interrogations at
separate military bases throughout the country. So far, no
CIA operatives have been charged in connection with the
abuse, although a single CIA contract employee is on trial
for involvement in the death of an Afghanistan detainee,
and sources have indicated that a grand jury may be
looking at other allegations involving the CIA.

A report by the CIA inspector general's office on the
agency's role in the handling of detainees is classified.
It has been shown to the Justice Department and briefed
only to a few lawmakers. Several military investigations
have already blamed the CIA for leading a program in Iraq
that essentially made detainees disappear within the
military's detention system with no record of their
captivity -- a practice that human rights groups have said
violated international laws of war.

In a particularly infamous case, a detainee at Abu Ghraib
prison in Iraq named Manadel Jamadi was photographed after
his death, packed in ice, by military police soldiers at
the facility. He allegedly died in a shower room during
interrogation by CIA officers after being brought there by
Navy Seal team members. A high-level CIA operative
allegedly helped conceal Jamadi's death after Army
officers found his body.

But the extent of the CIA's direct involvement in torture
is unclear, partly because the agency has been reluctant
to help the Defense Department's many investigations into
abuse and has refused to provide Army officers with
documents deemed relevant to the probes.

Staff writer Dana Priest contributed to this report.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company 


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