Loopholes in Obama’s Human Rights Orders

Monday, January 26, 2009
(photo: A. Pessin/Voice of America)

Writing for Politico, Josh Gerstein takes a closer look at President Obama’s executive orders regarding terror suspects and the use of torture.  A few significant delays and loopholes stand out. 

1. Torture: Obama's order on interrogations instructs all agencies of the government to follow the Army Field Manual when interrogating detainees, meaning that so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, such as the use of waterboarding and dogs, are no longer allowed.  However, the order also created an interagency task force that has six months to examine whether to create “additional or different guidance” for non-military agencies, such as the CIA. 
2. Guantánamo: Obama ordered a 30-day review of Guantánamo's conditions to ensure that they are legal and follow the Geneva Conventions.  However the man in charge of conducting the review is the same man that has been responsible for the prison for the past two years: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. 
3. Defining Torture: Obama asserts that there will be no torture on his watch, but force-feeding and solitary confinement continue in Guantánamo for now.  Some consider these practices to be torture, or at least inhumane; but White House council Greg Craig evaded discussing President Obama’s views on these issues. 
4. Prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan: The majority of detainees in American custody may not benefit from Obama’s orders.  Although Obama ordered a case-by-case review of the 245 prisoners at Guantánamo, the 600 prisoners held indefinitely in American custody in Afghanistan and approximately 20,000 in Iraq will not receive such attention. 
5. Releasing Prisoners: The orders disregard the possibility, and likelihood, that some prisoners may be set free in the United States.  Obama ordered the remaining inmates to be returned to their home country, transferred to a third country or to another detention facility in the U.S.  However, there is no mention of the possibility of freeing prisoners on American soil if other countries will not take them. 
6.  Military Tribunals: Military tribunals in Guantánamo are halted…for now.  However, Obama has not ruled out the possibility of continuing the use of military courts rather than trying the prisoners in the civil system.
Why the Gitmo Policies May Not Change (by Josh Gerstein, Politico)


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