National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell warned Friday that interrogation techniques listed as permitted in the U.S. Army Field Manual are not sufficient to protect the security of the United States.
The retired admiral, who is leaving his post with the change in administrations but will remain an adviser to the new president, was reacting to comments by incoming officials that the Obama administation will bar harsh interrogation measures, such as waterboarding.
Eric H. Holder Jr., the nominee for attorney general, testified Thursday at his confirmation hearing that waterboarding is torture and would be barred under his leadership.
President-elect Barack Obama vowed during the campaign that he would end such practices and also close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which houses about 250 terrorist suspects.
The Associated Press reported Friday that Mr. Obama is considering a proposal that would require all CIA interrogators to abide by the U.S. Army Field Manual. The report said this would not only bar waterboarding and other harsh measures but also shut down "black sites" -- CIA prisons abroad where terrorist suspects have been interrogated.
Spokesmen for the transition declined comment on the report.
On Sunday, Mr. Obama told ABC's "This Week," that "if our top Army commanders feel comfortable with interrogation techniques that are squarely within the boundaries of rule of law, our Constitution and international standards, then those are things that we should be able to do."
However, he refrained from committing to outlaw current interrogation practices until he becomes president and examines all relevant intelligence information.
Mr. McConnell defended the practices of the Bush administration. He and others have acknowledged that the administration harshly interrogated several dozen suspects and waterboarded three individuals.
"Does the [intelligence] community need interrogation techniques beyond what's in the Army Field Manual? In my opinion we do," he told a small group of reporters at a farewell news conference Friday.
"The Army Field Manual has 19 techniques," he said, "As long as it is determined to be legal by an appropriate legal authority, my recommendation to the administration would be preserve the ability to use lawfully approved techniques if you are in a situation where you need to use those techniques."
According to the manual, interrogators are encouraged to develop a rapport with a prisoner. The manual allows the interrogator to exploit the fears of a prisoner, but stop short of threatening him or her. Other acceptable techniques include taking advantage of a prisoner's strong feelings about an issue, showing false solidarity or attacking a prisoner's pride.
A Republican aide on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said an Obama White House executive order addressing CIA interrogation issues "would not surprise us," but added that he had not heard of any specific proposal. He spoke on the condition that he not be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Democrats have proposed limiting CIA interrogation techniques to the Army Field Manual since 2007. Indeed, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, the incoming chairman of the intelligence committee, sponsored amendments in the last Congress to restrict the CIA to the manual's techniques.
Republicans on the committee have favored a different approach.
"We would think that if this is done by executive order, we would not have to do something with legislation," the aide said. "The appropriate approach for Congress is to ban techniques that the American people believe should not be used in an intelligence interrogation. This leaves open the possibility of using new non-coercive techniques that have yet to be developed."
Sen. Christopher S. Bond of Missouri, the ranking Republican on the intelligence committee, earlier this week introduced legislation that would ban the techniques that are also barred in the field manual. These include stripping prisoners naked, covering a prisoner's head and face with a hood, applying "beatings, electric shock, burns or similar forms of pain," using military dogs, conducting mock executions, waterboarding, inducing hypothermia or depriving a prisoner of adequate medical care or food and water.
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