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Bush says U.S. ‘does not torture’

By Jennifer Loven
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON — President Bush defended his administration’s methods of detaining and questioning terrorism suspects Friday, saying they are both successful and lawful.

“When we find somebody who may have information regarding a potential attack on America, you bet we’re going to detain them, and you bet we’re going to question them,” he said during a hastily called appearance in the Oval Office. “The American people expect us to find out information, actionable intelligence so we can help protect them. That’s our job.”

Bush volunteered his thoughts on a report on two secret memos in 2005 that authorized extreme interrogation tactics against terror suspects. “This government does not torture people,” the president said.

Meanwhile, the Democratic chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee demanded a copy of a third Justice Department memo justifying military interrogations of terror suspects held outside the United States.

In a letter to Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey, Sen. Carl Levin wrote that two years ago he requested — and was denied — the March 14, 2003, legal opinion. Levin asked if Mukasey would agree to release the opinion if the Senate confirms him as attorney general, and cited what he described as a history of the Justice Department stonewalling Congress.

“Such failures and the repeated refusal of DoJ to provide Congress with such documents has prevented the Congress from fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities to conduct oversight,” Levin wrote.

The two Justice Department legal opinions from 2005 were disclosed in Thursday’s editions of The New York Times, which reported that the first of the opinions authorized the use of painful methods, such as head slaps, freezing temperatures and simulated drownings known as waterboarding, in combination.

That secret opinion came months after a December 2004 opinion in which the Justice Department publicly declared torture “abhorrent” and the administration seemed to back away from claiming authority for such practices.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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