President Obama To Issue Executive Order Prohibiting CIA "Harsh Interrogations"

If it sticks, Huzzah for President Obama:

[T]he [executive] orders . . . will also prohibit the C.I.A. from using coercive interrogation methods, requiring the agency to follow the same rules used by the military in interrogating terrorism suspects, government officials said.

Here is my concern:

The new White House counsel, Gregory B. Craig, briefed lawmakers about some elements of the orders on Wednesday evening. A Congressional official who attended the session said Mr. Craig acknowledged concerns from intelligence officials that new restrictions on C.I.A. methods might be unwise and indicated that the White House might be open to allowing the use of methods other the 19 techniques allowed for the military.

(Emphasis supplied.) If Greg Craig said that, then this is all a charade. If Obama is saying that, then this is a big lie. Which, in some ways, makes it worse. More . . .

More from the story:

The executive order on interrogations is certain to be received with some skepticism at the C.I.A., which for years has maintained that the military’s interrogation rules are insufficient to get information from senior Qaeda figures like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The Bush administration asserted that the harsh interrogation methods were instrumental in gaining valuable intelligence on Qaeda operations.

Of course this is nonsense and irrelevant anyway. Unless the United States is prepared to opt out of the UN Convention on Torture, any continuation of torture will be a violation of United States law by President Barack Obama. Not to mention a war crime.

speaking for me only

< Roberts Re-Administers Oath to Obama | Oscar Nominations >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Get the FBI to lead the interogations (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by popsnorkle on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 07:05:17 AM EST
    I remember reading that in the beginning they had a choice of who did the interogations and they gave it to the CIA, to people with no experience.  Maybe they don't know how to get information other ways because they don't know how to do interogation in general.  Perhaps the answer to the skepticism is to tell them the job is no longer theirs.

    As I recall the FBI did some of the initial (none / 0) (#2)
    by Molly Bloom on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 07:09:37 AM EST
    interrogations then the CIA stepped in and when the FBI realized what was happening they washed their hands of it.

    Source: Jane Mayer, The Dark Side


    Tired of the dance (5.00 / 3) (#7)
    by mmc9431 on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 07:51:28 AM EST
    Enough of all this dancing around the issue. No more winks or nods. Either we adhere to the laws and treaties we have signed or we change them and pull out. If Obama truly believes in his inaugural speech, the option is perfectly clear.

    "If Obama truly believes his speech" (none / 0) (#13)
    by smott on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 09:06:25 AM EST
    Yes. If.

    Now that the stupid & the craven... (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by pluege on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 09:48:35 AM EST
    are out of office, can we stop with the idiocy of using euphemisms for torture? "Harsh interrogation" indeed. Sounds like a scolding. Grownups should use grownup terms; torture is torture; you can't put no lipstick on that pig.

    Update (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by lilburro on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 12:34:52 PM EST
    it appears he signed the CIA order with no loopholes:

    One of Mr. Obama's orders requires the C.I.A. to use only the 19 interrogation methods outlined in the Army Field Manual, ending President Bush's policy of permitting the agency to use some secret methods that went beyond those allowed to the military.

    why, just the other night, (none / 0) (#3)
    by cpinva on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 07:26:52 AM EST
    jack bauer and his peers used "harsh interrogation techniques" to secure critical data from an otherwise unwilling individual. armed with this information, they were able to prevent the initiation of a nuclear chain reaction, which would have destroyed the earth!

    oh, wait, that's just a tv show! you know, fantasy!

    24 should do an episode (none / 0) (#16)
    by magster on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 09:58:45 AM EST
    where the bomb blows up because some guy they tortured gives them bad information.

    Thankfully (none / 0) (#4)
    by lilburro on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 07:36:50 AM EST
    we'll get to see what Obama's got - and won't have to speculate for too much longer.  But this is interesting:

    A government official said Mr. Obama's order on the C.I.A. would still allow its officers abroad to temporarily detain terrorism suspects and transfer them to other agencies, but would no longer allow the agency to carry out long-term detentions.

    There needs to be a guarantee that "other agencies" do not include Egypt, Syria, etc.  Otherwise the door is left quite open for rendition.

    other agencies can't mean rendition (none / 0) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 07:42:12 AM EST
    which, in case any one is wondering, has been illegal under US law since 1998.

    I don't understand (none / 0) (#6)
    by lilburro on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 07:45:39 AM EST
    how does that not sound like extraordinary rendition?  

    I didn't get my words right - I meant extraordinary rendition, not rendition.


    To me it sounds like (none / 0) (#8)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 07:57:05 AM EST
    other agencies of the US government.

    If it means what you say it means, then Obama is proposing to violate Us law.


    Surely some enterprising (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by oldpro on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 08:34:32 AM EST
    reporter will ask about that...

    Ambiguity has served Obama well in the campaign.  Here, I think, that will not do.

    Spell it out in black and white.


    if a serious portion (none / 0) (#12)
    by lilburro on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 08:46:26 AM EST
    of his intelligence community people weren't involved with rendition or defenders of the practice, I wouldn't be bothered.


    Critics accused the CIA of using renditions to deliver suspects to nations known to engage in torture. But if the United States is no longer willing to hold suspects itself, Obama may have little choice.

    "I think it's reasonable to expect [that Obama] would be much more careful about turning prisoners over," said another former U.S. intelligence official who has advised the Obama team. "But I would not expect there would be a policy against ever doing renditions."

    well I hope that is what it means (none / 0) (#10)
    by lilburro on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 08:07:18 AM EST
    and in the context of reshaping domestic intelligence policy/American rules that may be what it means.  But I would like a written guarantee of that.

    What it means is (none / 0) (#9)
    by Steve M on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 08:00:57 AM EST
    the CIA is going out of the detention business, period... except for temporary detentions that last only so long as it takes to turn the suspect over to an agency that actually is in the business of detention.

    Not completely... (none / 0) (#14)
    by OldCity on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 09:24:24 AM EST
    The U.N. Convention
    against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
    (CAT), and its domestic implementing legislation (the Foreign Affairs Reform and
    Restructuring Act of 1998) impose the primary legal restrictions on the transfer of
    persons to countries where they would face torture. Both CAT and U.S.
    implementing legislation generally prohibit the rendition of persons to countries in
    most cases where they would more likely than not be tortured, though there are
    arguably limited exceptions to this prohibition. The State Department has taken the
    position that CAT's provisions concerning the transfer of persons do not apply
    extraterritorially, though as a matter of policy the United States does not transfer
    persons in its custody to countries where they would face torture (U.S. regulations
    and statutes implementing CAT, however, arguably limit the extraterritorial transfer
    of individuals nonetheless). Under U.S. regulations implementing CAT, a person
    may be transferred to a country that provides credible assurances that the rendered
    person will not be tortured. Neither CAT nor implementing legislation prohibits the
    rendition of persons to countries where they would be subject to harsh interrogation
    techniques not rising to the level of torture. Besides CAT, additional obligations may
    be imposed upon U.S. rendition practice via the Geneva Conventions, the War
    Crimes Act (as amended by the Military Commissions Act (P.L. 109-366)), the
    International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the Universal
    Declaration on Human Rights.

    Rendition is legal.  There's dispute over whether the US can transfer prisoners to countries where they will be tortured...that's quite a different thing.

    I don't love the practice, regardless.  Arguments can be made to support it in the case of offenses committed abroad against US citizens or in international waters, but otherwise, I'm not comfortable.

    But, to say that it's a violation of US law to engage in rendition is not accurate.


    Question (none / 0) (#18)
    by jbindc on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 09:59:35 AM EST
    How would this affect the government from using a private contractor like Blackwater?

    Wusses (none / 0) (#19)
    by vjg6727 on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 11:36:34 AM EST
    Hey world we are now a country of a bunch of wusses who cares more about the treatment of murders and our "image" then we care about the safety of our own children!!!!!!!!!!!!

    what torture (none / 0) (#20)
    by Lev on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 12:04:20 PM EST
    To me, torture means physically assaulting a person to gain information.  You know, like they do in most other less civilized countries like Russia, China, Vietnam.  Making a person stand on one leg for hours, depriving them of sleep, or even simulating drowning is not torture.  It makes them uncomfortable, but there is no lasting effects from them.  Asking terrorists nicely and saying pretty please won't get them to talk, so if anyone has a better suggestion, I am sure we would like to hear it.

    Little do you know (5.00 / 3) (#21)
    by eric on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 12:17:01 PM EST
    Treating people with respect is the best way to get information.  And it is the right thing to do.  We know this how?  From our experience interrogating the Nazis.

    "We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture,"


    The more you've internalized (none / 0) (#23)
    by jondee on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 01:07:19 PM EST
    the circle-the-wagons, garrison state under seige mentality, the more you're likely to see torture as the only way, IMO.

    Because the enemy is never seen as having any common decency or higher intelligence to appeal to. Its always us against them till the messiah returns.


    But (none / 0) (#24)
    by jbindc on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 01:52:07 PM EST
    Just a thought...

    A general in the German army would probably have a little more political savvy than say, a low-level member of a sleeper cell.

    It could also be argued that people who are intent on being suicide bombers probably have a different attitude and are looking for a different end game than a general in the German army.  My guess is the general was more interested in long-term self preservation than a suicide bomber.

    This is not to say I agree with torture - just pointing out that there are different mindsets between the groups you are comparing.


    Well (none / 0) (#25)
    by Steve M on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 01:56:14 PM EST
    Every modern-day interrogator I have ever listened to says the exact same thing.  You get a lot more information from trust and relationship-building, period.