Bush admits existence of secret CIA prisons

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Bush admits existence of secret CIA prisons

US President George W. Bush acknowledged for the first time on Wednesday that the CIA runs secret prisons overseas and said tough interrogation forced terrorist leaders to reveal plots to attack the United States and its allies.

Bush said 14 suspects including the mastermind of the September 11 attacks and the architects of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole and the US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania had been turned over to the Defence Department and moved to the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for trial.

“This programme has been, and remains, one of the most vital tools in our war against the terrorists,” Bush said.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said yesterday that China has taken notice of the concerns of the international community on the secret CIA prisons.

“China maintains its position of fighting strongly against terrorism,” he told a regular briefing, noting that anti-terrorism practices should be in line with the spirit of the UN Charter and the principles of international relations…

     

Releasing information declassified just hours earlier, Bush said the capture of one terrorist just months after the September 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 the September 11 attacks, Bush pressed Congress to quickly pass administration-drafted legislation authorizing the use of military commissions for trials of terror suspects. Legislation is needed because the Supreme Court in June said the administration’s plan for trying detainees in military tribunals violated US and international law.

Bush’s speech, his third in a recent series about the war on 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 Defence Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld be made to step down. They argued that the White House has mishandled the war, mismanaged the detainee system and failed to prosecute terrorists.

“For five years, Democrats have stood ready to work with the president and the Republican Congress to establish sound procedures to bring terrorists to justice,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada. “Unfortunately, President Bush ignored the advice of our uniformed military and set up a flawed system that failed to prosecute a single terrorist and was ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court.”

With the transfer of the 14 men to Guantanamo, there are currently no detainees being held by the CIA, Bush said. A senior administration official said the CIA had detained fewer than 100 suspected terrorists in the history of the programme.

Also on Wednesday, the Pentagon put out a new Army field manual that spells out appropriate conduct on issues including prisoner interrogation. The manual applies to all the armed services but not the CIA. It bans torture and degrading treatment of prisoners, for the first time specifically mentioning forced nakedness, hooding and other procedures.


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