During the presidential campaign I wrote time and again about my concern that Barack Obama would not follow through on the things he was speechifying about. He’s proving me wrong, and I am damn glad of it! From the New York Times:
President Obama signed executive orders Thursday directing the Central Intelligence Agency to shut what remains of its network of secret prisons and ordering the closing of the Guantánamo detention camp within a year, government officials said.
The orders, which are the first steps in undoing detention policies of former President George W. Bush, rewrite American rules for the detention of terrorism suspects. They require an immediate review of the 245 detainees still held at the naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to determine if they should be transferred, released or prosecuted.
And the orders bring to an end a Central Intelligence Agency program that kept terrorism suspects in secret custody for months or years, a practice that has brought fierce criticism from foreign governments and human rights activists. They 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.
There are many details still to be worked out, but this is a tremendous start. If nothing else, it is a signal to Americans — and to the rest of the world — that the United States of America believes in human rights.
The order also directs an immediate assessment of the prison itself to ensure that the men are held in conditions that meet the humanitarian requirements of the Geneva Convention. That provision appeared to be a pointed embrace of the international treaties that the Bush administration often argued did not apply to detainees captured in the war against terrorism.
The seven years of the detention camp have included four suicides, hunger strikes by scores of detainees, and accusations of extensive use of solitary confinement and abusive interrogations, which the Department of Defense has long denied. Last week a senior Pentagon official said she had concluded that interrogators at Guantánamo had tortured one detainee, who officials have said was a would-be “20th hijacker” in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Thank you, Mr. President. (When’s the last time you said that?!)