Summary of Obama’s Executive Order on Interrogations

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Thursday, January 22, 2009 at 12:03 pm

I don’t have the actual document yet, but here’s the White House’s just-released summary of the executive order on interrogations.

Executive Order revokes Executive Order 13440 that interpreted Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. It requires that all interrogations of detainees in armed conflict, by any government agency, follow the Army Field Manual interrogation guidelines. The Order also prohibits reliance on any Department of Justice or other legal advice concerning interrogation that was issued between September 11, 2001 and January 20, 2009.

The Order requires all departments and agencies to provide the ICRC access to detainees in a manner consistent with Department of Defense regulations and practice. It also orders the CIA to close all existing detention facilities and prohibits it from operating detention facilities in the future.

Finally, the Order creates a Special Task Force with two missions. The Task Force will conduct a review of the Army Field Manual interrogation guidelines to determine whether different or additional guidance is necessary for the CIA. It will also look at rendition and other policies for transferring individuals to third countries to be sure that our policies and practices comply with all obligations and are sufficient to ensure that individuals do not face torture and cruel treatment if transferred. This Task Force will be led by the Attorney General with the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence as co-Vice Chairs.

More as soon as I see the actual document, but it’s probably premature to conclude from that last paragraph that there’ll be a loophole for CIA. Dennis Blair said repeatedly at his confirmation hearing that he wants one field manual on interrogations for the entire government. Skepticism is appropriate here, but it would be a massive breach of trust for him to emphasize that and then have the task force, which he’ll co-chair, to nevertheless create an exemption for CIA.

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