Reports in the New York Times on Thursday said memos from the justice department authorised simulated drowning, head-slapping, exposure to frigid temperatures and lengthy periods of sleep deprivation as legally acceptable techniques by CIA.

The document was circulated in 2005, the same year US Congress adopted a law banning cruel inhumane and degrading treatment, the Times said.

'Better protection'

"I have put this programme in place for a reason and that is to better protect the American people and when we find somebody who may have information regarding a potential attack on America, you bet we're gonna detain him and you bet we're gonna question him," Bush said on Friday.

 

Dana Perino, White House spokeswoman, on Thursday confirmed the existence of the classified memo dated February 5, 2005, on what constituted legally acceptable interrogation techniques.

"They can't say that Congress has been fully briefed while refusing to turn over key documents used to justify the legality
of the programme"


John Rockefeller, senate intelligence committee chairman
But she refused to comment on whether it authorised specific practices such as head-slapping and simulated drowning.

 

The 2005 memos were issued shortly after Alberto Gonzales took over as attorney-general. He resigned last month amid criticism he was more loyal to the White House than to upholding justice.

The issues of interrogation and domestic spying programmes by the CIA are expected to surface at the senate confirmation hearing for Michael Mukasey, Bush's nominee to replace Gonzales.

Democratic congressmen have demanded that the justice department hand over the memos mentioned in the report.

"The administration can't have it both ways. I'm tired of these games," John Rockefeller, senate intelligence committee chairman, said.


"They can't say that Congress has been fully briefed while refusing to turn over key documents used to justify the legality of the programme."

A statement from the committee, added to intelligence legislation, has insisted that the CIA programme must be evaluated to determine whether it is "necessary, lawful, and in the best interests of the United States".

Democrats have said that the justice department has prevented effective oversight by not providing classified documents on the administration's counterterrorism programmes.