- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 22, 2009


President Obama on Thursday ordered the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba within a year and ordered that all interrogations of suspected terrorists will have to abide by the Army field manual, removing the Bush administration’s approval of “enhanced” interrogation techniques, which some believed to be torture.

The new president, during his second full day in office, also ordered the shuttering of so-called black sites, where the CIA and foreign security services harshly interrogated terrorist suspects.

Mr. Obama signed three executive orders in the Oval Office a few minutes after 11 a.m., in front of news photographers and reporters, with retired military generals standing behind him.

“The message that we are sending around the world is that the United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism, and we are going to do so vigilantly, we are going to do so effectively, and we are going to do so in a manner that is consistent with our values and our ideals,” Mr. Obama said.

“We intend to win this fight,” Mr. Obama said. “We’re going to win it on our terms.”

But his request for a panel headed by the Attorney General to report back with recommendations on future practices leaves unanswered the thorniest questions related to both detention of suspected terrorists and interrogations of high-value detainees.

The panel will deliver an opinion in 180 days on what should be done with Guantanamo detainees that are too dangerous to release but also can’t be tried in a court either because the evidence against them is classified or was obtained by extra-judicial means.

“There’s one category that we can transfer. There’s one category that we can try. The third category can’t be transferred, can’t be tried,” said a senior Obama administration official, who briefed reporters on the condition that his name not be used, saying he could speak more freely that way.

“But we’ve got to figure out a way consistent with our values and the rule of law, but also our national safety, to deal with these people,” the official said.

This particular conundrum was one of the main drivers that prompted the Bush administration to create the Guantanamo facility.

The panel will also report back on whether the CIA should in fact be free of some restrictions in the Army Field Manual.

“There may be merit in the argument that some of the standards and the guidance assoc with the Army Field Manual are not applicable to the intelligence scenario. We’re not talking about different techniques. We’re talking about guidance, how you go about doing something as opposed to how you question somebody,” the senior White House official said.

“So this is not a secret annex that allows us to bring the enhanced interrogation techniques back.”

And the president is also seeking an opinion from the panel on rendition, the practice of extraditing detainees to foreign countries, which was started before President Reagan but stepped up significantly under President Bush.

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