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Senate bill questions secret CIA prison system.

“The Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday questioned the continuing value of the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret interrogation program for terrorism suspects,” suggesting the 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 sweeping report, which accompanies the annual bill authorizing the activities of all of the spy agencies, reflects a striking reassertion of aggressive oversight since Democrats took control of Congress this year. […]

The committee declared that it would block changes sought by the Bush administration in the law governing domestic eavesdropping by the National Security Agency unless it received long-sought administration documents on the secret surveillance program, including orders signed by President Bush.

The report criticized the intelligence agencies’ ballooning use of contractors, saying the outsourcing had created conflicts of interest because some major purchasing programs are themselves run by contractors, some of which have ties to vendors. […]

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But the committee stopped short of using its budget authority to shut down the [secret CIA interrogation] program. In a closed session on May 23, two Democrats, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Dianne Feinstein of California, proposed barring spending on interrogation techniques that go beyond the Army Field Manual, which bans physical pressure or pain. … The amendment failed when Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, joined all the Republicans in voting no.