George W. Bush liked to call himself the Decider. He was big on his "gut." He didn't care what people thought of him. And yet, for 8 years, he was unable to do something as simple as define torture and make certain everyone knew we did not do it.
Just two days after assuming office, President Obama showed how easy it is to lead on the issue of whether or not America tortures. Obama signed 4 Executive Orders on Thursday which puts the issue to rest. Under the EOs:
the CIA’s interrogators cannot question detainees using “any interrogation
technique or approach, or any treatment related to interrogation, that is not
authorized by and listed in Army Field Manual 2 22.3.” That manual was rewritten
by the Army in 2006 to reemphasize its compliance with the Geneva Conventions
and U.S. laws banning torture. The Bush administration took an unyielding stance
toward exempting CIA interrogations from that manual and those laws. But the
Obama administration revoked all Bush administration executive orders from
September 11, 2001 onward “concerning detention or the interrogation of detained
individuals,” and directed the attorney general to conduct a thorough review of
all other “directives, orders, and regulations” on the subject issued by the
Bush administration that are no longer applicable.
Obama further instructed the military to close
Guantanamo Bay within a year. A different executive order empanelled
a cabinet-level task force to determine what should be done with the roughly 245
detainees still held at the Cuban naval base, as well as determining “lawful
options for the disposition of individuals captured or apprehended in connection
with armed conflicts and counterterrorism operations” in the future.
This is a big deal. As Ret. Major General Paul Eaton said on tv last night, "seven years without a trial is wrong." And for those who say there you go being soft on terrorists, lets not forget something: they are "suspected terrorists." We already know we had to release some of the detainees held in Gitmo and subject to our "not torture" techniques, because --surprise--they weren't terrorists. Denial of Due Process isn't just wrong, it is unAmerican. It's the biggest victory al Queda could have and the last administration handed it to them.
Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), in discussing these EOs, brought up an interesting item. He noted that when Obama was an Illinois state senator, Obama wrote a law requiring all police interrogations to be videotaped, which Holt has long argued should be standard CIA and military practice as well. He's absolutely right. I clerked for Joe McCulloch in law school. McCulloch is one of the best criminal lawyers in SC and the attorney who founded the Palmetto Innocence Project, South Carolina's chapter of the national Innocence Project, an organization that represents the wrongfully convicted.
Anyway, when I was there, Joe was pushing two things on the Richland and Lexington County Law Enforcement Agencies: sequential photo arrays and videotaping of interviews. As far as the videotaping, the story was always the same. The cops were reluctant as hell to do it everywhere it has been implemented. But within a year or two, every single agency admitted it was a great idea. What they found out, was that memorializing the entire process on video actually helped their cases. Its hard for a defense attorney to attack your interview process as being coercive, if it is obvious on video that it was not. Reading this reminds me I wanted to send the packet we used back then to Sheriff Boone.
As Sen. Russ Feingold stated, “President Obama’s first days in office have been a triumph for the rule of law."
Word, Russ. Word.
Keep that in mind, as we continue to hear about the crazy shit that has gone on the last 8 years. You know, like the spying on journalists.