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Obama pick urges some secrecy
President Obama on Thursday rolled back classified Bush administration interrogation techniques, but even as he was signing the order, his pick to be director of national intelligence told Congress that agencies still need secret tactics.
Mr. Obama’s order made the widely available Army Field Manual the standard for all interrogation techniques, erasing Bush-era rules that allowed some interrogators to go beyond what the military was generally allowed to do.
But Dennis Blair, testifying at his confirmation hearing before the Senate intelligence committee, said the guidelines for some techniques must be kept secret so enemies can’t train to withstand them.
“There will be some sort of document that’s widely available in an unclassified form. … The specific techniques that can provide training value to adversaries we will handle much more carefully,” the retired admiral said.
Mr. Obama on Thursday also signed orders closing the Guantanamo Bay prison within a year. But, as with the interrogation order, the president left many of the thorniest questions to be answered later. Lawmakers in Congress lined up to try to prevent suspected terrorists from being brought to prisons in their own districts.
In a third directive, Mr. Obama ordered so-called “black sites” - secret prisons run by the CIA outside the U.S., where detainees were reportedly tortured - to be closed.
“The orders that I signed today should send an unmistakable signal that our actions, in defense of liberty, will be just as our cause and that we the people will uphold our fundamental values as vigilantly as we protect our security,” Mr. Obama said later in the day, during remarks at the State Department.
Mr. Obama’s directives wipe away all of the Bush Justice Department’s contentious rulings on interrogations.
The president asked for a task force led by the attorney general to report back with recommendations on both how to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and on interrogations of high-value detainees.
The panel will deliver an opinion in 180 days on what to do with Guantanamo detainees who are too dangerous to release but can’t be tried in a court, either because the evidence against them is classified or was obtained in such a way that it might be inadmissible in court.
That conundrum was one of the main drivers that prompted the Bush administration to create the Guantanamo facility in the first place.
“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.
“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.
The panel also will report back on whether the CIA should be free of some restrictions in the Army Field Manual.
About the Author
- GOP sees little outreach in health care debate
- Obama nears decision on Afghan strategy
- Obama: 'No faith justifies' Fort Hood attack
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