Obama Made a Rash Decision on Gitmo
The president will soon realize that governing involves hard choices.
By JOHN YOO
During his first week as commander in chief, President Barack Obama ordered the closure of Guantanamo Bay and terminated the CIA’s special authority to interrogate terrorists.
While these actions will certainly please his base – gone are the cries of an "imperial presidency" – they will also seriously handicap our intelligence agencies from preventing future terrorist attacks. In issuing these executive orders, Mr. Obama is returning America to the failed law enforcement approach to fighting terrorism that prevailed before Sept. 11, 2001. He’s also drying up the most valuable sources of intelligence on al Qaeda, which, according to CIA Director Michael Hayden, has come largely out of the tough interrogation of high-level operatives during the early years of the war.The question Mr. Obama should have asked right after the inaugural parade was: What will happen after we capture the next Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or Abu Zubaydah? Instead, he took action without a meeting of his full national security staff, and without a legal review of all the policy options available to meet the threats facing our country…
It’s also likely Mr. Obama will declare terrorists to be prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. The Bush administration classified terrorists – well supported by legal and historical precedent – like pirates, illegal combatants who do not fight on behalf of a nation and refuse to obey the laws of war.
The CIA must now conduct interrogations according to the rules of the Army Field Manual, which prohibits coercive techniques, threats and promises, and the good-cop bad-cop routines used in police stations throughout America. Mr. Obama has also ordered that al Qaeda leaders are to be protected from "outrages on personal dignity" and "humiliating and degrading treatment" in accord with the Geneva Conventions. His new order amounts to requiring – on penalty of prosecution – that CIA interrogators be polite. Coercive measures are unwisely banned with no exceptions, regardless of the danger confronting the country.Eliminating the Bush system will mean that we will get no more information from captured al Qaeda terrorists. Every prisoner will have the right to a lawyer (which they will surely demand), the right to remain silent, and the right to a speedy trial.