One of Obama’s ambitions to look tough by killing random hapless Arabs or groups of Arabs with drones (and boasting about it: “I’m really good at killing people”) while doing virtually nothing to stem the spread of Islamic terrorism. Part of this was his intent to close down the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, because no-prisoners-no-visible-war. Unfortunately, as much as the drone attacks excited some people they were largely dysfunctional. You don’t develop an understanding of terrorist Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTP) by killing them. You do it by snatching senior members of the terror groups and extensively debriefing them… maybe with an underwater swimming lesson or two thrown in to keep them fit and healthy.
The New York Times and the Washington Post are both reporting that a Trump executive not only keeps Gitmo open but anticipates more prisoners being taken.
The Trump administration is preparing a sweeping executive order that would clear the way for the C.I.A. to reopen overseas “black site” prisons, like those where it detained and tortured terrorism suspects before former President Barack Obama shut them down.
President Trump’s three-page draft order, titled “Detention and Interrogation of Enemy Combatants” and obtained by The New York Times, would also undo many of the other restrictions on handling detainees that Mr. Obama put in place in response to policies of the George W. Bush administration.
If Mr. Trump signs the draft order, he would also revoke Mr. Obama’s directive to give the International Committee of the Red Cross access to all detainees in American custody. That would be another step toward reopening secret prisons outside of the normal wartime rules established by the Geneva Conventions, although statutory obstacles would remain.
And while Mr. Obama tried to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and refused to send new detainees there, the draft order directs the Pentagon to continue using the site “for the detention and trial of newly captured” detainees — including not just more people suspected of being members of Al Qaeda or the Taliban, like the 41 remaining detainees, but also Islamic State detainees. It does not address legal problems that might raise.
Specifically, the draft order would revoke two executive orders about detainees that Mr. Obama issued in January 2009, shortly after his inauguration. One was Mr. Obama’s directive to close the Guantánamo prison and the other was his directive to end C.I.A. prisons, grant Red Cross access to all detainees and limit interrogators to the Army Field Manual techniques.
In their place, Mr. Trump’s draft order would resurrect a 2007 executive order issued by President Bush. It responded to a 2006 Supreme Court ruling about the Geneva Conventions that had put C.I.A. interrogators at risk of prosecution for war crimes, leading to a temporary halt of the agency’s “enhanced” interrogations program.
Mr. Bush’s 2007 order enabled the agency to resume a form of the program by specifically listing what sorts of prisoner abuses counted as war crimes. That made it safe for interrogators to use other tactics, like extended sleep deprivation, that were not on the list. Mr. Obama revoked that order as part of his 2009 overhaul of detention legal policy.
Still, the draft order says high-level Trump administration officials should conduct several reviews and make recommendations to Mr. Trump. One was whether to change the field manual, to the extent permitted by law. Another was “whether to reinitiate a program of interrogation of high-value alien terrorists to be operated outside the United States” by the C.I.A., including any “legislative proposals” necessary to permit the resumption of such a program.
The Washington Post has a draft of the EO (in PDF)
There is a lot of complaining going on, naturally from McCain, but McCain’s own actions made part of this, the re-opening of “black prisons” or the re-invigoration of the extraordinary rendition program, necessary. His “anti-torture” grandstanding in 2015 mandated that detainees receive Geneva Conventions protections even though their conduct specifically puts them outside the scope of that treaty.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, but this EO swings the US back to a wartime footing in regards to fighting terrorism and with the anticipated clamping down on refugees from ISIS-held and -influenced areas it moves us a long, long way towards erasing the utter cluelessness of the Obama years.