The executive order signed did order that the Army Field Manual dictate what was permissible and not permissible, but it also “created a task force to recommend policies on handling terror suspects who are detained in the future” and called for a group to find a place “where those detainees should be housed since Guantanamo is closing.
In other words, the Army Field Manual may be appended and “updated” to include some of the Bush policies Yoo supports because “the task force will study whether other interrogation guidelines — beyond what's spelled out in the Army manual — are necessary for intelligence professionals in dealing with terror suspects.”
While an Obama Administration official anonymously claimed this is not a way for “enhanced interrogation techniques” to be re-introduced, one must presume that any study could reduce or increase the number of guidelines, and if guidelines were increased, exactly what would those guidelines be if not further instructions for carrying out “enhanced interrogation techniques” (or torture)?
Mayer describes that shortly before the signing ceremony Obama met with military officers in the Roosevelt Room. Vice-President Joe Biden and other top Administration officials were present.
“‘Two of the officers had sons serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of them, retired Major General Paul Eaton, stressed that, as he put it later that day, "torture is the tool of the lazy, the stupid, and the pseudo-tough. It's also perhaps the greatest recruiting tool that the terrorists have,’” describes Mayer. “The feeling in the room, as retired Rear Admiral John Hutson later put it, "was joy, perhaps, that the country was getting back on track."
Mayer admits that over in Langley, Virginia where CIA headquarters is located, there was “less jubilation.” The prime concern was that the C.I.A. might have to follow the same interrogation rules as the military.
Obama (who Mayer reports is “somewhat sympathetic to the spies' argument that their mission and circumstances are different” than the military’s) will have to consider what he will allow the CIA to do and not do. Obama has already chosen to strip the CIA of its right to operate secret prison sites in nations all over the globe.
Perhaps, the best summation of American uneasiness with the shift in policy comes from Yoo’s citation of the following phrase, which appeared in Obama’s inaugural speech.
Yoo explains that Obama’s “high-flying rhetoric” that we can “reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals” gives “al Qaeda -- a hardened enemy committed to our destruction -- the same rights as garden-variety criminals at the cost of losing critical intelligence about real, future threats.”
If you believe Obama, who went out of his way to consult military experts before choosing to enact reform, would do this knowing it could put America into a situation where it would face “real” and “future threats”, then what happened in Obama’s first few days signaled America was readying itself to lose the so-called “war on terror.”
But, if you sighed in relief when Obama’s pen touched the parchment (or printed order from Kinkos or Xerox), then you know the “war on terror” doesn’t pass the smell test anymore and in fact, grants Americans the right to brutalize other human beings who may or may not be guilty of a crime---who may or may not pose a “threat” to this nation.