A ban that isn’t a ban

Bush bans terror suspect torture

US President George W Bush has signed an executive order banning "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" of terror suspects.

It says torture and personal abuse - including sexual acts and attacks on religious beliefs - are intolerable.

CIA Director Michael Hayden said the order gave the agency the legal clarity it had been seeking.

The administration has faced pressure at home and abroad over interrogation techniques used on suspected militants.

The most controversial practice allegedly used by the CIA is "water boarding" - in which prisoners are strapped to a plank over water and made to fear that they will drown.

The American authorities have never confirmed they use the technique and it is unclear whether the guidelines allow it.

Leonard Rubenstein, director of Physicians for Human Rights, told the Associated Press news agency that the executive order was inadequate.

"What is needed now is repudiation of brutal and cruel interrogation methods."

"General statements like this are inadequate, particularly after years of evidence that torture was authorised at the highest levels and utilised by US forces," he said.

The White House declined to say whether the CIA currently had a detention and interrogation programme.

But it said that if it did, the agency had to adhere to the guidelines.