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CIA for ban exemption on cruelty to terror suspects

Jamie Wilson

Dick Cheney and CIA Director Porter Goss are said to have made the proposal last week

Washington: The White House wants the CIA to be exempted from a proposed ban on the abusive treatment of terrorism suspects being held in United States custody.

The Senate defied a threatened presidential veto three weeks ago and passed legislation that would outlaw the ``cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment'' of anyone held by the U.S. But the Washington Post and the New York Times, both quoting anonymous officials, said the Vice-President, Dick Cheney, proposed a change so that the law would not apply to counter-terrorism operations abroad or to operations conducted by ``an element'' of the U.S. Government other than the Defence department.

Mr. Cheney, accompanied by the CIA director, Porter Goss, is said to have made the proposal last week to John McCain, the Republican Senator who wrote the legislation. They argued that the President needed maximum flexibility in the war on terrorism. The newspapers said Mr. McCain rejected the plan. Spokesmen for all three men declined to comment.

Although most detenus in U.S. custody in the war on terrorism are held by the U.S. military, former intelligence officers say the CIA is holding several dozen detenus of particular intelligence interest at locations overseas, including senior Al-Qaeda figures Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaida, the Post said. Human rights groups said creating parallel sets of rules for military personnel and intelligence agents was impractical in the war on terror, where soldiers and spies often work together and share techniques.

The McCain measures still face stiff opposition in the House of Representatives, which has to agree them for them to pass. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

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