Senate's spy agencies funding bill questions use of secret prisons

The Baltimore Sun

Washington -- A Senate bill that sets funding levels for U.S. spy agencies suggests that the CIA's secret network of overseas prisons should be shut down unless the Bush administration can demonstrate that they are "necessary, lawful and in the best interests of the United States."

The measure amounts to a fresh attack by Congress on the five-year-old detention program, which has been credited with providing valuable intelligence on terrorism but has also been condemned by other countries.

The provision is contained in a bill that was passed last week by the Senate Intelligence Committee and posted on the panel's Web site yesterday. The measure would boost the budgets for U.S. spy agencies to an estimated $45 billion even as it calls for new scrutiny of an array of controversial espionage programs. The bill is the first spending measure passed by the committee since Democrats won control of congress last November.

Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, a West Virginia Democrat and chairman of the committee, has pushed for greater scrutiny of the CIA detention program, a network of secret overseas facilities that have been used to hold high-value terrorism suspects including alleged Sept. 11 attack mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

In the bill, the committee acknowledges that the interrogation of detainees has "provided valuable information," but questions the methods used and their costs to the U.S. reputation.

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