The largely symbolic amendment approved on Wednesday reaffirms a 1994 treaty barring torture of detainees in American custody, whether in the United States or in countries known for human rights violations.

 

The measure was approved 420-2 as part of an $81.4 billion emergency spending package for combat and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

Voting against the amendment were Republican Representatives Robin Hayes of North Carolina and Mark Souder of Indiana.

 

Detainees sent abroad

 

The amendment, written by Democratic Representatives Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Edward Markey of Massachusetts, comes in the wake of media accounts alleging that the US government secretly has sent detainees to foreign countries where they have been tortured for information.

 

"The United States must make sure we protect our people and our friends from attack. One way to do so is arrest people and send them back"

President George Bush

At a news conference on Wednesday, President George Bush shrugged off a question about detainees being sent to their home countries where they could be subject to torture.

 

"The United States must make sure we protect our people and our friends from attack. One way to do so is arrest people and send them back" to their home countries, he said.

 

"This country does not believe in torture. We do believe in protecting ourselves."

 

Outsourcing torture

 

Blumenauer and Markey said it would be naive to assume that detainees sent for interrogation to countries such as Egypt or Syria would not be tortured.

 

"Today, we moved one step closer to ending the US practice of outsourcing torture. The passage of this amendment reaffirms our commitment to upholding the Convention Against Torture," Markey said.

 

"Today, we moved one step closer to ending the US practice of outsourcing torture"

Edward Markey, Democratic representative

Blumenauer said he was "appalled by continued revelations in the media regarding the torture of detainees in American custody."

 

He called the use of overseas torture "morally reprehensible," adding that it puts American troops at risk by degrading the moral and legal leverage the United States needs to prevent torture of US military personnel.

 

Investigation

 

Blumenauer, a member of the House International Relations Committee, has called for Congress to investigate a Portland, Oregon, company that owns a sleek executive jet that has reportedly been used by the CIA to ferry alleged terrorists to countries believed to torture prisoners.

 

Since November, Bayard Foreign Marketing LLC has been the registered owner of a Gulfstream V that's been spotted at airports around the world being boarded by hooded and handcuffed prisoners.

 

FAA records show the jet was owned by Premier Executive Transport Services in Dedham, Massachusetts from 1999 to 2004.

 

Human rights groups claim the plane is a key piece of what they say is the US government's "torture by proxy" program.