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Bush to sign law authorizing harsh interrogation

Reuters | October 17 2006

President Bush, keeping his election-year focus on national security, is to sign a bill into law on Tuesday that allows tough interrogation and prosecution of terrorism suspects.

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 sets standards for interrogating suspects, but through a complex set of rules that human rights groups say could allow harsh techniques bordering on torture, such as sleep deprivation and induced hypothermia.

With Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales looking on, Bush is to sign the bill which was negotiated in September after senior Republicans rebelled against the president's plan and forced concessions from him.

The new law means Bush can continue a secret CIA program for interrogating terrorism suspects whom he believes have vital information that could thwart a plot against America.

It establishes military tribunals that would allow some use of evidence obtained by coercion, but would give defendants access to classified evidence being used to convict them.

"The president will mark a historic day in which he will sign a bill that he knows will help prevent terrorist attacks," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.

Bush is expected to speak briefly at the ceremony. He is trying to help Republicans maintain control of the U.S. Congress by contending they are stronger on national security, a stance with which Democrats vehemently disagree.

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