President Obama yesterday eliminated the most controversial tools employed by his predecessor against terrorism suspects. With the stroke of his pen, he effectively declared an end to the “war on terror,” as President George W. Bush had defined it, signaling to the world that the reach of the U.S. government in battling its enemies will not be limitless.
While Obama says he has no plans to diminish counterterrorism operations abroad, the notion that a president can circumvent long-standing U.S. laws simply by declaring war was halted by executive order in the Oval Office.
Key components of the secret structure developed under Bush are being swept away: The military’s Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, facility, where the rights of habeas corpus and due process had been denied detainees, will close, and the CIA is now prohibited from maintaining its own overseas prisons. And in a broad swipe at the Bush administration’s lawyers, Obama nullified every legal order and opinion on interrogations issued by any lawyer in the executive branch after Sept. 11, 2001.
So the war is over, according to the one. We should see no more attacks from al-Qaeda and it’s affiliates. Let’s all cheer, it’s over man! It’s over!
Obama was so quick to sign that letter that he was in the dark on some of it. I know, shocker:
Even as he signed the executive order to close Guantanamo, Obama was not even aware of what was in a second executive order dealing with Guantanamo inmates.
“Is there a separate executive order, Greg, with respect to how we’re going to dispose of the detainees?” Obama asked White House Counsel Greg Craig.
“We will be setting up a process,” was the answer.
In other words, the administration will figure it out later.
Yeah….it’s only our nations security. We’ll figure it out.
And with that we are now much less safe then we were four days ago.
But hold your horses, could there actually be some light at the end of the tunnel?
Most politicians would rather do anything than make a difficult choice, and it seems President Obama hasn’t abandoned this Senatorial habit. To wit, yesterday’s executive order on interrogation: It imposes broad limits on how aggressively U.S. intelligence officers can question terrorists, but it also keeps open the prospect of legal loopholes that would allow them to press harder in tough cases.~~~
Effective immediately, the interrogation of anyone “in the custody or under the effective control of an officer, employee, or other agent of the United States Government” will be conducted within the limits of the Army Field Manual. That includes special-ops and the Central Intelligence Agency, which will now be required to give prisoners gentler treatment than common criminals. The Field Manual’s confines don’t even allow the average good cop/bad cop routines common in most police precincts.~~~
The unfine print of Mr. Obama’s order is that he’s allowed room for what might be called a Jack Bauer exception. It creates a committee to study whether the Field Manual techniques are too limiting “when employed by departments or agencies outside the military.” The Attorney General, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Director of National Intelligence-designate Dennis Blair will report back and offer “additional or different guidance for other departments or agencies.”
In other words, Mr. Obama’s Inaugural line that “we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals” was itself misrepresenting the choices his predecessor was forced to make. At least President Bush was candid about the practical realities of preventing mass casualties in the U.S.
The “special task force” may well grant the CIA more legal freedom to squeeze information out of terrorists when it could keep the country safe. An anecdote former Clinton counterterror czar Richard Clarke recounts in his memoir “Against All Enemies” is instructive. In 1993, White House Counsel Lloyd Cutler was horrified by Mr. Clarke’s proposal for “extraordinary rendition,” where our spooks turn over prisoners to foreign countries like Egypt so they can do the interrogating.
While Mr. Clinton was still chewing his fingernails and seemed to side with Mr. Cutler, Al Gore arrived late to the meeting. “Clinton recapped the arguments on both sides,” Mr. Clarke writes. “Gore laughed and said, ‘That’s a no-brainer. Of course it’s a violation of international law, that’s why it’s a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass.’“
The wider danger Mr. Obama is inviting by claiming to draw a line while drawing no line at all is the message it sends to Langley. CIA interrogators are already buying legal insurance in the expectation that a Senator like Carl Levin or some prosecutor-on-the-make rings them up for war crimes. The executive order is bound to produce a more risk-averse CIA culture and over time less intelligence-gathering. No one may be willing to be Jack Bauer when Mr. Obama really needs him. This will have consequences for U.S. safety, and for the Obama Administration if there is another 9/11.
Oh, and on that Gitmo closing:
The emergence of a former Guantánamo Bay detainee as the deputy leader of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order President Obama signed Thursday that the detention center be shut down within a year.
The militant, Said Ali al-Shihri, is suspected of involvement in a deadly bombing of the United States Embassy in Yemen’s capital, Sana, in September. He was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen.
His status was announced in an Internet statement by the militant group and was confirmed by an American counterterrorism official.
We’re all less safe now and last I checked, even those lefty Obama supporters are not immune to shrapnel and falling buildings. But Obama and co. are making their bed in this bad policy, nothing to be done about it now. I’m hoping it doesn’t come back to bite our country in the ass but I have a feeling hoping will not be enough.