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CIA chief says agency does not torture prisoners

CIA Director Porter Goss insisted in an interview published Monday that CIA interrogators strictly obey laws against torture

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CIA chief says agency does not torture prisoners
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WASHINGTON:  CIA Director Porter Goss insisted in an interview published Monday that CIA interrogators strictly obey laws against torture, but at times use "unique and innovative ways" to gather information from prisoners.

 "This agency does not do torture. Torture does not work," Goss told newspaper USA Today.

 "We use lawful capabilities to collect vital information, and we do it in a variety of unique and innovative ways, all of which are legal and none of which are torture." 

The Central Intelligence Agency must put "a lot of judgment in the hands of individuals overseas" within legal requirements, Goss said in what was his first interview since a heated fight this month between President George W. Bush's administration and the Republican-controlled Senate on restricting interrogations.

The agency officially is neutral on the proposal by Republican Senator John McCain, to ban "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment of detainees by CIA or military officers, Goss said.    

But he made clear that techniques that would be restricted under McCain's plan have yielded meaningful intelligence.
   
"An enemy that's working in an amorphous network that doesn't have to worry about a bunch of regulations, chain of command, rule of law or anything else has got a huge advantage over a stultified, slow-moving, bureaucratic, by-the-book" organization, Goss said.   

"So we have to, within the law and within all the requirements of our professional ethics in this profession, develop agility. And that means putting a lot of judgment in the hands of individuals overseas," he told the daily.

In the interview in his office in Virginia, outside Washington, on Friday, Goss "declined to describe interrogation methods exclusive to the CIA," the report said.

Likewise he "declined to discuss reports by The Washington Post and Human Rights Watch alleging that the CIA maintains secret detention centers at military bases in Central European countries.

He said media leaks about allies helping the CIA in capturing and interrogating detainees may provoke reprisal terrorist attacks," the paper said.

I don't have any arrest authority overseas. If you want to disrupt a terrorist, you've got to have local law enforcement help you," he said.

The torture issue grabbed more attention with a Washington Post report that the CIA was interrogating captured Al-Qaeda operatives at secret prisons in eastern Europe, Afghanistan, Thailand and elsewhere.

McCain's legislation cleared the US Senate last month. To become law, the House of Representatives would have to approve it and the president sign it.

Vice President Dick Cheney and other top officials in Bush's administration have argued that US interrogators must be granted flexibility when questioning terrorist suspects.  Bush has pledged to veto an entire defence spending bill if it contains McCain's amendment that would outlaw torture and cruel, inhumane treatment of detainees.

Nearly half of Americans believe the use of torture against suspected terrorists to gain information is justified, according to a survey published on Thursday by the Pew Research Center. 

The survey, involving 2,006 people from the general public, found that 46 percent believe that torturing terrorist suspects to gain important information is sometimes (31 percent) or often (15 percent) justified while 17 percent thought it is rarely justified and 32 percent were opposed.   

By contrast, the study found that of 520 opinion leaders also questioned on the same issue, no more than one in four believes that torture of terrorist suspects can be sometimes or often justified.

"Strong opposition to torture is particularly pronounced among security experts, religious leaders and academics, the majority of whom say the use of torture to gain important information is never justified," the survey report by the think tank in Washington said. 

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