WASHINGTON (AP) -- To many of President Bush's allies, it is time to free intelligence officials from "legislative purgatory" and get the CIA back in the business of effective interrogations of suspected terrorists.
That chance could come this week if the Senate takes up a White House proposal limiting the punishable offenses that CIA interrogators may face when questioning "high-value" terrorist suspects. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., is expected to begin debate on the bill as early as Tuesday.
Through omissions and legal definitions, the proposal could authorize harsh techniques that critics contend potentially violate the Geneva Conventions, which govern the treatment of war prisoners. These methods include hypothermia, stress positions and "waterboarding," a practice of simulated drowning.
The bill would keep in law prohibitions on war crimes such as rape and torture that are widely accepted as illegal.
The proposal would apply back to 2001 the Bush administration's standards for treatment of detainees. That would shield CIA personnel from liability under a 1996 law intended to uphold the Geneva Conventions, since the fight against terrorism began and harsher interrogation methods were approved.
The New York Times, meanwhile, reported in a story posted Saturday on its Web site for Sunday newspapers that sharp differences arose between the CIA and the FBI over tactics used in the questioning of Abu Zubaydah at a safe house in Thailand in the spring of 2002.
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