Obama’s executive orders undoing the ‘war on terror’ and secrecy policies of the Bush administration

Flanked by 16 retired generals and admirals, Obama signed 3 executive orders and one presidential memorandum on January 22. As he signed the orders, he reiterated a comment that he made at his inauguration, when he stated, “As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.”

1) Review an disposition of Individuals detained at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and Closure of CIA Detention Facilities.

2) Order on ‘Ensuring Lawful Interrogations’
revoking all previous executive directives, orders, and regulations inconsistent with this order, including EO 13440 which didn’t give protection of GC art 3 to ‘enemy combatants’, allowing all departments and agencies of the government to allow representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross to have “timely access” to all prisoners.

3) Review order of Detention Policy Options
creating a Special Interagency Task Force to provide an overview of detention policy options, which is charged with “conducting a comprehensive review of the lawful options available to the Federal Government with respect to the apprehension, detention, trial, transfer, release, or other disposition of individuals captured or apprehended in connection with armed conflicts and counterterrorism operations, and to identify
such options as are consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice.”

* Presidential Memorandum on the Detention of Ali al-Marri (because Al Marri is not held at Guantanamo, he is not covered by the review mandated in the Guantanamo closure order). More here.

Just hours after the documents were signed, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden issued a statement to the agency’s workforce, instructing officers to comply “without exception, carve-out or loophole.”

The executive orders left some potentially worrying maneuvering room to continue some controversial Bush policies
* Obama’s GB order does not rule out new and improved military commissions or creating a special security court for those who couldn’t be convicted in federal court. Alternatively, a new ‘national security court’ can be set up as well. Miami Herald:

Under one widely considered scenario, the Justice Department would assign some of the war crimes cases to federal prosecutors in New York and near Washington, D.C. — and move those men first to the United States. Prime candidates are KS Mohammed, who already is under indictment in New York, since 1996, for an ill-fated plot to bomb U.S. airliners in Manila, and Ahmed Ghailani, also indicted there in the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings

* The Task Force on interrogation and transfer policies seems to be set up to find ways in which “extraordinary rendition” can be justified — though not, admittedly, on an industrial scale — and also seems designed to “recommend … additional or different guidance” for agencies outside the military.

* Officials said that a separate “protocol” may still be established to govern intelligence agency interrogation practices. (The Wall Street Journal calls this the ‘Jack Bauer Exception’ of Obama’s order…)

* Kenneth Anderson at Opinio Juris wonders why the EO on interrogation techniques includes a reference to “any armed conflict”.”Why would the Executive Order not direct the CIA to conform to such techniques limited to the Army manual under all circumstances?”

* Big papers’ commentaries: Washington Post, WSJ, LAT, NYT, The Times, Christian Science Monitor.
* Andy Worthington’s comments here.
* Professional interrogators lauding Obamas’ order on interrogation techniques here.
* UN Secretary General welcomes US decision to close Guantanamo here. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights statement here.
* Dana Priest on ‘Bush War on Terror comes to an end’ here.
* LA Times on repercussions of orders in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Obama Expands Access to Federal Government Information

“Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information, but those who seek to make it known,” President Obama said.

On January 21, President Obama reportedly signed an executive order (unoffical draft here) expanding access to presidential records in the possession of the National Archives.  This order revokes former President Bush’s Executive Order No. 13233 of November 1, 2001, which had given former U.S. presidents, vice presidents, and their heirs broad authority to block public access, on the ground of executive privilege, to presidential or vice presidential records administered by the National Archives.  See the report from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Obama also signed a memorandum (unofficial version here) irecting federal agencies to employ “a spirit of cooperation” and a presumption of “openness” in responding to Freedom of Information Act requests.  See the report at Editor & Publisher. During remarks at the document signing, Obama called the FOIA “perhaps the most powerful instrument we have for making our government honest and transparent, and of holding it accountable. More at the LAT and FAS.

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One Response

  1. [...] D.    whereas extraordinary rendition and secret detention are contrary to international human rights law, the UN Convention against Torture, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and whereas the US authorities are currently reviewing these practices, [...]

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