In a major reversal of Bush administration policies, President Barack
Obama has ordered the shutdown of the U.S. terror detention facility at
the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Mr. Obama has also ordered a review of
military trials for terror suspects and acted to ban so-called
"enhanced" interrogation techniques.
With three strokes of the
pen, President Obama radically overhauled America's handling of terror
suspects, but pledged the battle against terrorism will continue.
"We intend to win this fight. We are going to win it on our terms," he said.
president signed an executive order mandating the shutdown of the
Guantanamo Bay detention camp within a year. In addition, he set up a
task force that will recommend what is to be done with about 245
remaining terror suspects once the Guantanamo Bay camp is closed.
administration has suspended trials for Guantanamo suspects for 120
days while a review of military tribunals set up during the Bush
administration goes forward.
Mr. Obama also stipulated the U.S.
Army Field Manual will guide U.S. interrogations of terror suspects by
all government entities. The manual forbids "enhanced" techniques like
waterboarding - which simulates drowning - that were believed to have
been used by CIA operatives in exceptional circumstances.
Administration officials say the detainees will be covered by the
Geneva Conventions on prisoner treatment. The director of the CIA has
told employees they must follow the new rules without exception.
it is not yet clear what will be done with all the detainees when the
camp closes, White House officials say no terror suspects will be sent
to third countries that employ torture.
Speaking in the Oval
Office, the president said his administration will not continue with
what he called a false choice between safety and ideals.
think that it is precisely our ideals that give us the strength and the
moral high ground to be able to effectively deal with the unthinking
violence that we see emanating from terrorist organizations around the
world," he said.
Speaking on Capitol Hill, Mr. Obama's pick to
oversee U.S. intelligence work, Admiral Dennis Blair, described the
Guantanamo detainee camp as "a rallying cry for terrorist recruitment."
"The Guantanamo detention center will be closed. It has become a damaging symbol," he said.
Republican leaders are expressing grave misgivings about closing the
facility, citing reports that some detainees that were released in
recent years have rejoined al-Qaida or other terrorist organizations.
Closing Guantanamo was a central Obama campaign promise.
up after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan following the September 11,
2001 terrorist attacks, the Guantanamo detention facility quickly
became an irritant between the United States and the world at large,
including long-standing U.S. allies.
Human rights groups have
blasted the indefinite nature of the detentions with few of the rights
and protections mandated for prisoners of war under international law.
They also have decried detainee living conditions in the early phase of
the operation, as well as allegations of abuse and torture.
Bush administration argued that those detained in the global war on
terror did not qualify for prisoner-of-war status, since they fought
for no internationally-recognized government and wore no uniforms.
Former President Bush referred to them as "illegal combatants" and
"detainees" rather than "soldiers" and "prisoners" - and maintained
that the United States does not torture.
The United States has
maintained a naval base at Guantanamo for more than a century. The
land is leased from Cuba in an arrangement that precedes the Cuban
revolution. The base will not be closed by this order.