NEW YORK -- The Bush administration is defending its decision to give the CIA extensive authority to send terrorism suspects to foreign countries for interrogation.
The New York Times reported yesterday that President Bush signed a still-classified directive just days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that gave the CIA broad power to operate without case-by-case approval from the White House in the transfer of suspects -- a process known as rendition.
The CIA declined to comment on the report, and the White House would not confirm the directive.
But White House counselor Dan Bartlett defended the administration's policies, saying it was important after the Sept. 11 attacks to take a ''hard look at our entire apparatus -- militarily, intelligence, diplomatic -- to see how we were going to fight and win the war on terror."
The rendition program has been under scrutiny in recent weeks after several former detainees complained of inhumane treatment and human rights groups have complained that the operations violated American standards condemning torture.
Representative Edward Markey filed legislation last month to eliminate what he called ''outsourcing torture."
''The president needs to rescind his extraordinary rendition 'outsourcing torture' directives so that Americans can know that we are neither engaging in torture ourselves, nor outsourcing torture to other nations," the Massachusetts Democrat said yesterday.
Markey also called on the president to declassify the secret order.
The Bush administration has publicly said the United States did not hand over people to be tortured. ''At every step of the way, President Bush and his administration has made very clear that we abide by the laws of our land and the treaty obligations we have," Bartlett told CNN.