U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Monday the Bush administration was opposed to the use of torture even though Vice President Dick Cheney had lobbied Congress to exempt the Central Intelligence Agency from a proposed torture ban.
A prominent Republican senator, John McCain, has said that America's image abroad could be ruined if Congress doesn't pass a proposed law banning the torture of prisoners in U.S. custody.
McCain, who was tortured during the Vietnam War, is the leading supporter of a provision banning such inhumane treatment. The Republican White House, however, has threatened to veto any bill with restrictions on handling detainees, saying it would limit the president's ability to protect Americans and prevent a terrorist attack.
McCain's provision has been approved by the Republican-controlled Senate, but prospects of the bill clearing the House of Representatives are uncertain. Vice President Cheney has vigorously lobbied Congress to drop or modify the detainee provisions, and wants to exempt the Central Intelligence Agency from the proposed torture ban.
During a joint press conference with Australia's Attorney General Philip Ruddock, Gonzales refused to comment specifically on the McCain provision but said the Bush Administration had been "very clear" in condemning torture.
"We do not condone torture, we will not engage in torture. Anyone in the U.S. government found to be involved in torture is going to be held accountable," he told reporters in Sydney.
"Obviously, we care about the perception of our friends and allies around the world. Part of winning the war on terror is winning the hearts and minds of various communities, like the Muslim community," he added, saying that the United States was already bound by international and domestic laws banning the use of torture.
"I think it's very important for everyone to understand that we believe very strongly in the rule of law," he said.
Asked if he supported an exemption on anti-torture rules for the CIA, Gonzales refused to comment, reports the AP. I.L.