Thursday, January 22, 2009

Closing Guantánamo and CIA Black Sites

I'd like to point you to one particular passage of this extremely important interview from mid-December at Subtopia (which Andrew Sullivan also commented on briefly).
You know, Obama closing Guantánamo is indeed a good thing. And the symbolism is important because Guantánamo is so high-profile. But I fear that the closing of Guantánamo will relieve political pressure as torture recedes back into its darker corners. The public knows a lot less about rendition and "black sites," for example, than it does about Guantánamo. In this sense, I worry that torture could just revert to a well-concealed practice used by a liberal state when it's supposedly in its interests. And it would also be a profound mistake simply to deal with all this as a matter of international PR-management for the US. In the wake of Bush administration torture, there's an opportunity to do so much more than engage in symbolic acts. I hope we can muster the political imagination.
It's thus really nice to see the first orders from Obama regarding not only Guantánamo but also the CIA black sites.
...And the orders would 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.
Shutting down the black site operations is less about satisfying the anti-torture public and international opinion than it is about sticking to basic moral principles whether they're expressed in a high-profile way or not. I think this approach is also reflected in who Obama is picking for less high-profile positions at DOJ and perhaps particularly the Office of Legal Counsel at DOJ. For one, the tireless Marty Lederman, formerly of Balkinization.


troutsky said...

Democracy Now interviewed Vincent Warren of Center for Constitutional Rights who was much less sanguine about effect of order on CIA rendition. Does it deal with detainees at Bagram or Pul e Charkhi? He felt there was a loophole in language calling for techniques to be "consistent with national security" He also thought lack of mention of Black Sites was "a glaring hole". I'm confused.

helmut said...

Yeah, I was wondering that earlier in an interview at Subtopia. I think it is pretty important, though, that Obama included black sites.

But, yes, next is Baghram, etc.