Both sides in a Republican Party dispute over standards for interrogating suspected terrorists said Sunday they are confident they will reach a compromise.
President Bush wants CIA personnel to be able to use aggressive methods to get information from detainees. But several powerful Republican senators are seeking changes to Bush’s plan. They say the United States must adhere strictly to international standards and that setting harsher ones could put U.S. troops at risk if they are captured.
“I still believe that we’ll be able to work this out to the satisfaction of everybody concerned,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Their differences deal with the Geneva Conventions, which set international standards for the treatment of prisoners of war, and with U.S. handling of classified information and coerced testimony.
A Supreme Court ruling in June essentially said the Geneva Conventions on the rights of wartime prisoners should apply to the suspected terrorists in CIA custody. The decision froze the interrogations and led the Bush administration to turn over the last 14 prisoners in CIA custody to the military officials running a prison for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The White House says the existing ban on “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” satisfies U.S. treaty obligations. A Senate bill is silent on the issue.
Bush’s proposal allows evidence to be held from a defendant if it is classified and allows coerced testimony if deemed reliable. The Senate bill requires a judge to dismiss charges if evidence cannot be shared and it excludes any testimony obtained by cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, declined to say publicly what specific techniques, such as waterboarding or prolonged sleep deprivation, would be illegal if Congress did not pass Bush’s proposal.
But he said the CIA program would suffer and be shut down if interrogators do not have guidance. He said the White House is working on a compromise that “achieves Senator McCain’s requirement that we don’t amend or change” the Geneva Conventions.
“We need to find a way through that obstacle course, and I think we can,” Hadley said.
Not everyone seems convinced that a compromise will be reached. “I think we’re going to have to wait and see,” National Intelligence Director John Negroponte.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said he does not think an agreement can be reached “unless the president gives up on his idea that we are going to unilaterally modify Geneva.”
Hadley appeared on ABC’s “This Week,” CBS’ “Face the Nation” and CNN’s “Late Edition.” Negroponte was on “Fox News Sunday,” McCain on ABC and Levin on CBS.