Bush defends policies on interrogating terrorism suspects

By Xinhua

Washington : U.S. President George W. Bush defended Friday the government policies on detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects as successful and lawful.

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“When we find somebody who may have information regarding an attack on America, you bet we’re going to detain them, and you bet we’re going to question them,” he said in his official Oval Office.

Bush made the remarks following a report in Thursday’s editions of The New York Times disclosed that shortly after former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales took over the Justice Department in 2005,two memos were issued to authorize the use of extreme interrogation tactics on terror suspects, which has been denied by the White House and the Justice Department.

“The American people expect us to find out information, this actionable intelligence, so we can help protect them. That’s our job,” he said. “This government does not torture … we stick to U.S. law and our international obligations.”

Highly trained professionals were assigned to question the “extremists and terrorists,” and they have already obtained information from “these high-value” detainees that help protect Americans, Bush said.

Meanwhile, the White House “have been fully disclosed” the interrogation techniques to Congress, he added.

After the Justice Department publicly declared torture “abhorrent” in December 2004, the first memo was issued that authorized the use of head slaps, freezing temperatures and simulated drownings, known as water boarding, in interrogating terror suspects, said The New York Times report.

The second Justice opinion was issued later in the year while Congress was working on an anti-torture bill.

Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said Tuesday in a statement that neither of the two memos violated the December 2004legal opinion that still remains in effect. “Neither (former) Attorney General Gonzales nor anyone else within the department modified or withdrew that opinion.”

However, Senate and House Democrats Thursday demanded to see the reported secret memos that authorized painful interrogation tactics against terror suspects.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller sent a letter to the Justice Department saying the government would risk its credibility if not turning over the documents to Congress. “Why should the public have confidence that the program is either legal or in the best interests of the United States?” he questioned in the letter.

The American Civil Liberties Union also called for an independent investigation on the Justice Department’s torture opinions, calling the memos “a cynical attempt to shield interrogators from criminal liability and to perpetuate the administration’s unlawful interrogation practices.”