Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama Begins National Security Overhaul

Everyone knew it was coming, but the question was always about the timing. President Obama wasted no time in considering the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and signaling a shift in the treatment of detainees. Obama and others are all too concerned about international opinion and haven't exactly given serious thought about where those who are detained at Gitmo should go. They're calling for a closure without actually having an alternative location in place.

After all, we're holding high value terrorists like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed there and other jihadis who were captured on the battlefield and weren't exactly read their Miranda rights. They're terrorists engaged in war against the US and yet Obama and others want to treat them with more rights than prisoners of war? They have wanted to give these people access to US civilian courts, which is something never done before in US history. Why? Because some Europeans are outraged that we captured terrorists and are holding them?
A senior Obama administration official said the president would sign an order today to shutter the Guantanamo prison within one year, fulfilling his campaign promise to close a facility that critics around the world say violates domestic and international detainee rights. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because the order has not yet been issued.

A draft copy of the order, obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, notes that "in view of significant concerns raised by these detentions, both within the United States and internationally, prompt and appropriate disposition of the individuals currently detained at Guantanamo and closure of the facility would further the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice."

An estimated 245 men are being held at the U.S. naval base in Cuba, most of whom have been detained for years without being charged with a crime. The administration already has received permission to suspend the trials at Guantanamo for 120 days pending a review of the military tribunals.

Two other executive orders and a presidential directive also are expected today, according to the administration official and an aide to a House Republican lawmaker who was briefed on the plans Wednesday by White House counsel Greg Craig. They include:

* An executive order creating a task force that would have 30 days to recommend policies on handling terror suspects who are detained in the future. Specifically, the group would look at where those detainees should be housed now that Guantanamo will be closed.

* An executive order to require all U.S. personnel to follow the U.S. Army Field Manual while interrogating detainees. The manual explicitly prohibits threats, coercion, physical abuse and water-boarding, a technique that creates the sensation of drowning and has been termed a form of torture by critics. However, the administration also is planning a study of more aggressive interrogation methods that could be added to the Army manual, a second Capitol Hill aide said.
Of course, the same executive orders being considered provide quite a bit of leeway for President Obama. After all, he's calling for a study of where these terrorists should be detained if Gitmo is closed. Three military prisons are being considered, including Fort Levenworth, Camp Pendelton, and Charlston, SC.

Note too that only three detainees were waterboarded and the process was ended in 2006 by Executive Order. This wasn't exactly some widespread tactic used by the Administration either, despite hysterical claims to the contrary.

By taking these actions, the Obama Administration will be owning the events that happen going forward - should terrorists attack and/or exploit the changes in US policy since Obama took office, the nation should have no one to blame but Obama for those failings.

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