Sunday, February 15, 2009

Presidential Orders

One of President Obama's first acts in office was to issue Executive Orders addressing some of the most pressing national security issues. Four of the orders dealt with: 1) The case of Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri; 2) Interrogation; 3) Detention options available for detainees apprehended in the "War on Terror"; and 4) What to do with respect to Guantanamo Bay.

Al-Marri Order- Al-Marri was seized at his home in Peoria, Illinois in 2003 on suspicion that he was aiding al Qaeda. He has been held by the military in a military detention facility ever since. Al Marri challenged his detention in a military facility based on a finding that he was an "enemy combatant." A federal district court initially denied him relief, but a panel decision of the 4th Circuit reversed the district court's decision. Ultimately the 4th Circuit reheard the case en banc and, by a 5-4 decision, reversed the panel decision. The 4th Circuit's decision put the Al-Marri case squarely on a path to the Supreme Court.

On January 22nd a Presidential Order was issued that directed an "expeditious" review of Al-Marri's status as an enemy combatant. The review will look at the "factual and legal basis" for his detention, and suggest "alternative dispositions" for Al-Marri. This order pre-empts a review by the Supreme Court and paves the way for a non-judicial resolution to Al-Marri's situation.

Detainee Order- This order directs the issue of what to do with detainees who are apprehended "in connection with armed conflicts and counterterrorism operations" to a Special Task Force. The task force is comprised of the: Attorney General (Co-Chair), Secretary of Defense (Co-Chair), Secretary of State, Secretary of Homeland Security, Director of National Intelligence, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, others brought in by the Co-Chairs. The purpose of this task force is to determine options available to the federal government with respect to those apprehend in the "War on Terror."

Interrogation Order- This order revoked any existing orders that authorized interrogation techniques that are not consumate with the Geneva Conventions. The order directs the approval of interrogation techniques to a task force that is composed of the same parties named in the Detainee Order. The task force's mission is to reccomend acceptable methods of interrogation that will serve to protect national security. The task force is also supposed to evaluate the practice of transferring prisoners to countries that employ practices that are not in accord with the Geneva Conventions.

Guantanamo Bay Order- This order required the closure of the detention facility of Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo). It ordered the review of the factual and legal bases for continuing to hold the prisoners currently held at Gitmo. If the findings show that a prisoner is a national or foreign security threat then they will be held in some other fashion than that employed at Gitmo. It also orders the closure of the Gitmo facility no later than one year from the issuance of the order.

The Attorney General has the power to request any and all information regarding any prisoner currently held at Gitmo in order to determine the legitimacy of their continued detention. The viability of transfer or release will be determined as to each prisoner as well as the viability of prosecution of those detainees whose records would support such action. The order also calls for options as to how to deal with any detainee that cannot be released or prosecuted. It also calls for the analysis of security issues that may arise from transfer of some of the detainees to facilities within the United States.

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