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Obama Issues Executive Orders on Interrogation, Guantanamo, Detainee Policy, and Memo on al-Marri

President Obama issue three historic executive orders today:

The President also signed a memorandum directing a review of the al-Marri case.

These are truly remarkable documents. Here is an excerpt from the E.O. on Interrogations:

Sec. 3.  Standards and Practices for Interrogation of Individuals in the Custody or Control of the United States in Armed Conflicts.

(a)  Common Article 3 Standards as a Minimum Baseline.  Consistent with the requirements of the Federal torture statute, 18 U.S.C. 2340 2340A, section 1003 of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, 42 U.S.C. 2000dd, the Convention Against Torture, Common Article 3, and other laws regulating the treatment and interrogation of individuals detained in any armed conflict, such persons shall in all circumstances be treated humanely and shall not be subjected to violence to life and person (including murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment, and torture), nor to outrages upon personal dignity (including humiliating and degrading treatment), whenever such individuals are in the custody or under the effective control of an officer, employee, or other agent of the United States Government or detained within a facility owned, operated, or controlled by a department or agency of the United States.

(b)  Interrogation Techniques and Interrogation-Related Treatment.  Effective immediately, an individual in the custody or under the effective control of an officer, employee, or other agent of the United States Government, or detained within a facility owned, operated, or controlled by a department or agency of the United States, in any armed conflict, shall not be subjected to any interrogation technique or approach, or any treatment related to interrogation, that is not authorized by and listed in Army Field Manual 2 22.3 (Manual). Interrogation techniques, approaches, and treatments described in the Manual shall be implemented strictly in accord with the principles, processes, conditions, and limitations the Manual prescribes.  Where processes required by the Manual, such as a requirement of approval by specified Department of Defense officials, are inapposite to a department or an agency other than the Department of Defense, such a department or agency shall use processes that are substantially equivalent to the processes the Manual prescribes for the Department of Defense.  Nothing in this section shall preclude the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or other Federal law enforcement agencies, from continuing to use authorized, non-coercive techniques of interrogation that are designed to elicit voluntary statements and do not involve the use of force, threats, or promises.

(c)  Interpretations of Common Article 3 and the Army Field Manual.  From this day forward, unless the Attorney General with appropriate consultation provides further guidance, officers, employees, and other agents of the United States Government may, in conducting interrogations, act in reliance upon Army Field Manual 2 22.3, but may not, in conducting interrogations, rely upon any interpretation of the law governing interrogation — including interpretations of Federal criminal laws, the Convention Against Torture, Common Article 3, Army Field Manual 2 22.3, and its predecessor document, Army Field Manual 34 52    issued by the Department of Justice between September 11, 2001, and January 20, 2009. (emphasis added)

To summarize:

1. Common Article 3 is to apply to all persons detaineed in armed conflict.

2. All interrogations by US officials in US facilities are to be subject to the requirments of the the Army Field Manual.

3. US officials cannot rely on any interpretations of the law relating to interrogation given by the Justice Department during the Bush Administration post-September 11.

This is precisely what was needed.

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Welcome! Who am I?



Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.