Bush hits back on terror 'torture' row

President Bush today insisted that violent interrogation methods for terror suspects were not torture.

He spoke out after the leak of two secret memos which advised the US government that head slaps, freezing temperatures and simulated drownings were legal.

“When we find somebody who may have information regarding an attack on America, you bet we’re going to detain them, and you bet we’re going to question them,” Mr Bush said.

“The American people expect us to find out information, this actionable intelligence, so we can help protect them. That’s our job.”

“This government does not torture.”

The two memos from the Justice Department in 2005 were revealed in yesterday’s New York Times.

The first authorised the methods and the second was issued as Congress was working on an anti-torture bill.

It declared that none of the CIA’s interrogation practices would violate the rules in the legislation banning “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment of detainees.

Mr Bush told reporters “highly trained professionals” conducted the questioning, adding: “And by the way, we have gotten information from these high-value detainees that have helped protect you.”

He also said that the techniques used “have been fully disclosed to appropriate members of the United States Congress”.

“The American people expect their government to take action to protect them from further attack,” the president said.

“And that’s exactly what this government is doing. And that’s exactly what we’ll continue to do.”

The legal opinions remain in effect despite efforts by Congress and the courts to limit interrogation methods used by the government in response to the September 11 attacks.

With opposition politicians calling for an inquiry, the dispute may come down to how the Bush administration defines torture, or whether it allowed US interrogators to interpret anti-torture laws beyond legal limits.

A CIA spokesman said the agency sought guidance from the Bush administration and Congress to make sure its program to detain and interrogate terror suspects was legal.

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