President Bush and Senate Republicans hammered out a deal on Thursday for interrogating and trying foreign terrorism suspects, and Bush hailed it for preserving his program for CIA questioning of detainees.
The Bush administration has argued the program of CIA questioning is vital for U.S. security after the September 11 attacks but critics have assailed it on human rights grounds, saying tough interrogations border on torture.
The Bush administration denies that prisoners are tortured.
"I’m pleased to say that this agreement preserves the most single — the most potent tool we have in protecting America and foiling terrorist attacks, and that is the CIA program to question the world’s most dangerous terrorists and to get their secrets," Bush said of the deal.
"The measure also creates military commissions that will bring these ruthless killers to justice," Bush said on a trip to Orlando, Florida, adding he hoped Congress would send him the legislation before it wraps up its business next week."
Bush was forced to make concessions after three leading Senate Republicans challenged his plan last week and offered a rival bill that drew more Senate support.
Sens. John Warner of Virginia, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina had said Bush’s bill would undermine the Geneva Conventions’ protections for war prisoners, and allow abusive interrogations and unfair trials.
Congress is trying to pass legislation to establish trial procedures for foreign terrorism suspects picked up since the September 11 attacks. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down Bush’s original program for such trials in June.
The United States has faced international criticism for the indefinite detention of prisoners at the U.S naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Rights groups and others have accused the United States of torture and abuse of detainees.
Senate Republican leader Bill Frist of Tennessee said the deal still must be shown to senators and members of the House of Representatives.
The compromise then faces likely passage in both the House of Representatives and Senate next week before Congress breaks to campaign ahead of November elections.
McCain brushed off any talk about who prevailed in this showdown with the White House, saying, "We’re all winners because we’ve been able to come to an agreement through a process of negotiations and consensus."
He said "the agreement that we have entered into gives the president the tools that he needs to continue to fight the war on terror and bring these evil people to justice."
© Reuters 2006