WASHINGTON - The House approved an intelligence bill yesterday that would prohibit the CIA from using waterboarding, mock executions, and other harsh interrogation methods.
The 222-199 vote sent the measure to the Senate, which still must act before the legislation can go to President Bush. The White House has threatened a veto.
The bill, a House-Senate compromise to authorize intelligence operations in 2008, would also block spending 70 percent of the intelligence budget until the House and Senate intelligence committees are briefed on Israel's Sept. 6 air strike on an alleged nuclear site in Syria.
The 2008 intelligence budget is classified, but it exceeds the $43 billion approved for 2007.
Most of the bill is also classified, though some portions were made public. One provision requires reporting to the committees on whether intelligence-agency employees are complying with protections for detainees from cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. Another provision requires a report on the use of private contractors in intelligence work.
The White House veto threat came this week in a lengthy statement highlighting more than 11 areas of disagreement with the bill.
The administration particularly opposes restricting the CIA to interrogation methods approved by the military in 2006. That document prohibits forcing detainees to be naked, perform sexual acts, or pose in a sexual manner; placing hoods or sacks over detainees' heads or duct tape over their eyes; beating, shocking, or burning detainees; threatening them with military dogs; exposing them to extreme heat or cold; conducting mock executions; depriving them of food, water, or medical care; and waterboarding.
Waterboarding involves strapping down a prisoner, covering his mouth with plastic or cloth, and pouring water over his face. The prisoner quickly begins to inhale water, causing the sensation of drowning.
The CIA is known to have waterboarded three prisoners but has not used the technique since 2003, according to a government official familiar with the program who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information is classified. CIA Director Michael V. Hayden prohibited waterboarding in 2006. The U.S. military outlawed it the same year.
The bill approved yesterday also creates an internal watchdog to oversee all the intelligence agencies.
Separately yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee, by 13-5, rejected legislation that would have protected telecommunications companies from lawsuits over helping the government eavesdrop on Americans' communications without court orders. The legislation would have made the government, rather than the companies, the defendant in such suits. The vote sank the measure pushed by Sen. Arlen Specter (R., Pa.), who hoped it could be a compromise in the dispute over whether to immunize the companies from lawsuits.
Representatives from the Philadelphia area who voted for the intelligence bill were Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.), Joe Sestak (D., Pa.) and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).
Voting against the bill were Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Joseph