President Bush's directive banning the torture of terror suspects applies to all prisoners — even if held in a secret prison reportedly set up by the CIA (search) for its most important Al Qaeda captives, a senior administration official said Wednesday.

National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley (search) would not confirm or deny the existence of a secret, Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe that was described in a Washington Post account. The story said the facility was part of a covert prison system set up nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries.

"And that is why he's been very clear that the United States will not torture," Hadley said, responding to questions at a White House briefing. "The United States will conduct its activities in compliance with law and international obligations."

Asked about secret prisons, Hadley said, "The fact that they are secret, assuming there are such sites, does not mean" torture would be tolerated. "Some people say that the test of your principles (is) what you do when no one's looking. And the president has insisted that whether it is in the public or it is in the private, the same principles will apply and the same principles will be respected. And to the extent people do not meet up, measure up to those principles, there will be accountability and responsibility."

Led by Vice President Dick Cheney (search), the Bush administration is floating a proposal that would allow the president to exempt covert agents outside the Defense Department from a Senate-approved ban on torturing detainees in U.S. custody or weakening the prohibition.