President Obama is devoting his second full day in office to foreign affairs. While much attention has been paid to his plans to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, the Washington Times reports on other overseas changes:
President Obama on Thursday will order the closure of so-called black sites, where CIA and European security services have interrogated terrorist suspects, under executive orders dismantling much of the Bush admistration's architecture for the war on terror, according to four individuals familiar with a draft executive order.
The individuals said there will be three executive orders. One will order the black sites closed and require all interrogations of detainees across the entire U.S. intelligence community to adhere to the U.S. Army Field Manual. The manual specifies a range of interrogation techniques that are not considered torture.
The New York Times, however, adds that the order "could also allow Mr. Obama to reinstate the C.I.A.'s detention and interrogation operations in the future, by presidential order, as some have argued would be appropriate if Osama bin Laden or another top-level leader of Al Qaeda were captured."
The American Prospect's Adam Serwer says this paragraph could cause some anxiety, but that it's probably nothing to worry about.
Obviously I haven't seen the draft of the order that the Times has, but torture is illegal and we are bound by treaty not to practice it. So while yes, it's technically possible that Obama could do it again, it would be just as illegal as when Bush did it, and I doubt there's any way the folks appointed to the OLC would approve it.
Jane Mayer reported on the CIA black sites in a 2007 issue of the New Yorker.
The C.I.A.'s interrogation program is remarkable for its mechanistic aura. "It's one of the most sophisticated, refined programs of torture ever," an outside expert familiar with the protocol said. "At every stage, there was a rigid attention to detail. Procedure was adhered to almost to the letter. There was top-down quality control, and such a set routine that you get to the point where you know what each detainee is going to say, because you've heard it before. It was almost automated. People were utterly dehumanized. People fell apart. It was the intentional and systematic infliction of great suffering masquerading as a legal process. It is just chilling."