Fri, Sep 08, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Bush admits to overseas CIA jails

POLITICAL DETENTIONS The US president made the surprise admission as he prodded Congress to approve rules for military commissions to try such detainees


US President George W. Bush finally is acknowledging that the CIA runs secret prisons overseas and saying that tough interrogation forced terrorist leaders to reveal plots to attack the US and its allies.

Bush said on Wednesday that 14 suspects -- including the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and architects of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole and the US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 -- had been turned over to the Defense Department and moved to the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for trial.

Bush said the CIA program "has helped us to take potential mass murderers off the streets before they were able to kill." Releasing information declassified just hours earlier, Bush said the capture of one terrorist months after the Sept. 11 attacks had led to the capture of another and then another, and had revealed planning for attacks using airplanes, car bombs and anthrax.

Nearing the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11, Bush pressed Congress to pass administration-drafted legislation quickly to authorize use of military commissions for trials of terror suspects.

Legislation is needed because the Supreme Court said in June the administration's plan for trying detainees in military tribunals violated US and international law.

"These are dangerous men with unparalleled knowledge about terrorist networks and their plans for new attacks," Bush said, defending the CIA program he authorized after the Sept. 11 attacks. "The security of our nation and the lives of our citizens depend on our ability to learn what these terrorists know."

Bush's speech, his third in a recent series about his campaign against terror, gave him an opportunity to shore up his administration's credentials on national security two months before congressional elections at a time when Americans are growing weary of the war in Iraq.

Democrats, hoping to make the elections a referendum on Bush's policies in Iraq and the war on terror, urged anew that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld be made to step down. The effort went nowhere in the Republican-controlled Senate.

With transfer of the 14 men to Guantanamo, the CIA currently is holding no detainees, Bush said.

A senior official said the CIA had detained fewer than 100 suspected terrorists in the history of the secret detention program.

Still, Bush said that "having a CIA program for questioning terrorists will continue to be crucial to getting lifesaving information."

Some Democrats and human rights groups have said the CIA's secret prison system did not allow monitoring for abuses, and they hoped it would be shut down.

The president refused to disclose the location or details of the detainees' confinement, or the interrogation techniques that had been used.

"I cannot describe the specific methods used -- I think you understand why," Bush said in the East Room where families of some of those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks gathered to hear his speech.

"If I did, it would help the terrorists learn how to resist questioning, and to keep information from us that we need to prevent new attacks on our country. But I can say the procedures were tough, and they were safe, and lawful and necessary," he said.

Bush insisted the detainees were not tortured.

"I want to be absolutely clear with our people and the world: The United States does not torture," Bush said. "It's against our laws, and it's against our values. I have not authorized it, and I will not authorize it."

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