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Is Obama’s new order a head fake?

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Interrogating Terrorists, Obama-Style

Is Obama’s new order a head fake?

President Obama’s new executive orders on closing the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and limiting the permissible methods for interrogating terrorist detainees are the legal equivalent of a running back’s head fake: they mislead, and only the runner’s next move reveals his intent.

So far, the White House’s intentions aren’t clear.  One member who attended the pre-release White House briefing on the executive orders characterized the orders as confusing.  On the closing of the Guantanamo Bay facility, he said the White House was more confused than the members being briefed.  When pressed on where the inmates would go after the Guanranamo Bay facility closed, White House briefers – including counsel Greg Craig — just couldn’t answer:  none of them knew. 

And that is only one part of the mis-leadership our new president engaged in with these orders.

Only one thing is quite clear:  the ACLU got the draft of the executive orders before Congressional Republicans did.  One Congressional source groused that the ACLU had the orders on its website by the time the invited congressmen returned from a White House briefing on them (at which they weren’t given copies of the orders.)

Under one of the new executive orders, Obama has prohibited the use of any interrogation method not described in the US Army Field Manual on prisoner interrogation.  If this is really his intent, President Obama is — on just his second full day in office — guilty of reckless endangerment of our intelligence operators, our military and possibly even our civilian population at home. 

The Army Field Manual is a public document.  According to several intelligence community sources, al-Queda has re-published it (in its entirety) on some of its terrorist websites.  

Those same sources said, with considerable frustration in their voices, that one of the main reasons former President Bush allowed additional interrogation methods to be used is that al-Queda (and other terrorist groups) train their people all too well on how to thwart the interrogation methods in the Army manual.  

By limiting the permissible techniques to those in the manual, Obama has effectively abandoned the idea of gathering intelligence by questioning terrorists.  

Interrogation is a mind game.  To get information from the (pardon the redundancy) resisting detainee requires trickery, psychological pressure and manipulation of the person’s beliefs, prejudices and weaknesses.  If the detainee knows what is going on in an interrogation — how the interrogator is trying to manipulate him into cooperation, how long and how far the questioning can go — he can avoid revealing anything valuable to the interrogator.

If Obama actually intends to do this, he will weaken our intelligence gathering abilities to pre-9-11 levels.  Then we had virtually no human intelligence capability and relied almost entirely on satellites and electronic intercepts.

Almost as important, and perhaps more disturbing, is the fact that Obama’s interrogation executive order defines the permitted treatment of detainees under all of the following: the U.N. Convention Against Torture, Geneva Conventions Common Article 3 and U.S. law.  The problem is that these laws and treaties aren’t consistent.  

So what has Obama done to help clarify what’s going on?  Nothing.  In fact, it expressly precludes the use of legal interpretations issued by the U.S. Department of Justice for that purpose between September 11, 2001 and January 20, 2009.

No wonder the Obama camp is desperate to get Eric Holder confirmed.  They need a compliant AG to impose fully the left’s agenda which requires treating terrorists as if they were Beverly Hills purse snatchers.

And there’s a quirk in President Obama’s orders:  they don’t bind him.  That’s right: the President isn’t bound by his own executive order. Like President Bush did, he can authorize additional interrogation methods.  (According to one intelligence community source, Obama’s lawyers have admitted this to be true.)

So what is Obama up to?  If he really is limiting our interrogators to the Army Manual, he is dealing a serious blow to our intelligence capabilities.  If he isn’t, what happens when the Kos Kidz and Keith O. find out?  

We — and Congressional conservatives — need to watch this very closely.  And we will.

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Written By

Mr. Babbin is the former editor of Human Events and HumanEvents.com (Jan 2007-Mar 2010) and served as a deputy undersecretary of defense in President George H.W. Bush's administration. He is the author of "In the Words of our Enemies"(Regnery,2007) and (with Edward Timperlake) of "Showdown: Why China Wants War with the United States" (Regnery, 2006) and "Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe are Worse than You Think" (Regnery, 2004).

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