1. US President George W Bush walks into East Room of the White House
2. Wide of Bush at podium
3. SOUNDBITE (English) US President George W. Bush:
"It is a rare occasion when a President can sign a bill he knows will save American lives. I have that privilege this morning. The Military Commissions Act of 2006 is one of the most important pieces of legislation in the war on terror."
4. Cutaway of General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, pull out to wide of Bush at podium
5. SOUNDBITE (English) US President George W. Bush:
"When I sign this bill into law, we will use these commissions to bring justice to the men believed to have planned the attacks of September the 11th, 2001. We'll also seek to prosecute those believed responsible for the attack on the USS Cole, which killed 17 American sailors six years ago last week."
President George W. Bush signed legislation on Tuesday authorising tough interrogation of terror suspects and smoothing the way for trials before military commissions, calling it a "vital tool" in the war against terrorism.
Bush's plan for treatment of the terror suspects became law just six weeks after he acknowledged that the CIA had been secretly interrogating suspected terrorists overseas and pressed Congress to quickly give authority to try them in military commissions.
Speaking from the White House East Room, Bush said the bill he signed today will help bring to justice the men believed to be responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
Among those the United States hopes to try are Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of those attacks; as well as Ramzi Binalshibh, an alleged would-be 9/11 hijacker; and Abu Zubaydah, who was believed to be a link between Osama bin Laden and many al-Qaida cells.
Bush said it's "a rare occasion when a president can sign a bill that he knows will save American lives." But he said he had that privilege with this bill's signing.
The president said he signed the legislation in memory of the victims of the September 11 attacks.
He said the United States "will answer brutal murder with patient justice," and added, "those who kill the innocent will be held to account."
Among those in the audience were military officers, lawmakers who helped pass the bill and members of Bush's Cabinet.
He singled out for praise, among others, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who has come under sharp criticism in recent months as violence has soared in Iraq.
The law protects detainees from blatant abuses during questioning - such as rape, torture and "cruel and inhuman" treatment - but does not require that any of them be granted legal counsel.
Also, it specifically bars detainees from filing habeas corpus petitions challenging their detentions in federal courts.
Many Democrats opposed the legislation because they said it eliminated rights of defendants considered fundamental to American values, such as a person's ability to go to court to protest their detention and the use of coerced testimony as evidence.
The American Civil Liberties Union said the new law is "one of the worst civil liberties measures ever enacted in American history."
Bush acknowledged that the law came amid dispute. But he said, the process is "fair, lawful and necessary."
Outside the White House, a coalition of religious groups staged a protest against the bill, shouting "Bush is the terrorist" and "Torture is a crime."
About 15 of the protesters, standing in a light rain, refused orders to move. Police then arrested them one by one.
The Bush administration needed the legislation because the Supreme Court in June said the administration's plan for trying detainees in military tribunals violated US and international law.
The legislation, which sets the rules for court proceedings, applies to those selected by the military for prosecution and leaves mostly unaffected the majority of the 14-thousand prisoners in US custody, most of whom are in Iraq.
Terrorism , Protests and demonstrations , Legislation , Government and politics , Military legal affairs , September 11 attacks , Laws , Crime , War and unrest , General news , Political and civil unrest , Legislature , Military and defense , Events , Terrorist attacks , Terrorism , War and unrest , General news
George W. Bush , Peter Pace , Alberto Gonzales , Donald Rumsfeld , Khalid Sheikh Mohammed , Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum , Abu Zubaydah , Osama bin Laden