President George W. Bush defended U.S. interrogation practices Monday and called the treatment of terrorism suspects lawful. "We do not torture," Bush declared in response to reports of secret CIA prisons overseas. Bush supported an effort spearheaded by Vice President Dick Cheney to block or modify a proposed Senate-passed ban on torture.
"We're working with Congress to make sure ... we make it possible, more possible, to do our job," Bush said. "There's an enemy that lurks and plots and plans and wants to hurt America again. And so, you bet we will aggressively pursue them. But we will do so under the law."
Cheney is seeking to persuade Congress to exempt the Central Intelligence Agency from the proposed torture ban if one is passed by both chambers.
Bush spoke at a news conference with Panamanian President Martin Torrijos.
In Washington, Senate Democrats pressed for the creation of an independent commission to investigate detainee abuse. They hope to attach the proposal to a defense bill the Senate is considering this week.
"We need a 9/11-type commission to restore credibility to this nation," said Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, reports the AP. I.L.