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Contentions

Another Exception to the Rule

The Obama administration is making a great show of ending a series of Bush administration policies on the war on terror. Guantanamo is to be closed. Well, not right away, of course. (It seems those detainees are dangerous and there is no good place to put them right now.)  And enhanced interrogation techniques will be banned. Well, unless the President’s advisors report back that we really need them. (It seems that every once in awhile a very bad guy with a lot of very important information might come along and we might need to get that information in order to save American lives.)  Now comes word that yet another executive order isn’t exactly as advertised.

Eli Lake reports:

President Obama’s executive order closing CIA “black sites” contains a little-noticed exception that allows the spy agency to continue to operate temporary detention facilities abroad.

The provision illustrates that the president’s order to shutter foreign-based prisons, known as black sites, is not airtight and that the Central Intelligence Agency still has options if it wants to hold terrorist suspects for several days at a time.

Current and former U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition that they aren’t identified because of the sensitivity of the subject, said such temporary facilities around the world will remain open, giving the administration the opportunity to seize and hold assumed terrorists.

The detentions would be temporary. Suspects either would be brought later to the United States for trial or sent to other countries where they are wanted and can face trial.

The exception is evidence that the new administration, while announcing an end to many elements of the Bush “war on terror,” is leaving itself wiggle room to continue some of its predecessor’s practices regarding terrorist suspects.

On one hand, the administration can be commended for retaining prudent measures that allow us to continue to prosecute the war on terror (even if they don’t like that phraseology). On the other hand, there is a fundamental lack of forthrightness — yes, transparency — in passing sweeping measures, holding grand press events and then concealing from view the exceptions and equivocations which allow us to pretty much continue business as usual.

Yes, the CIA facilities are only supposed to be “temporary,” but most things are — even presidential terms. As Lake details, some on the Left have convinced themselves this isn’t a bit like the Bush-era CIA black sites while others are nervous that it sure sounds familiar.

Is the Left so easily mollified that a self-congratulatory press avail is all that is required? If the Bush administration had been less candid and tried this tactic it seems doubtful that the media and Democratic base would have been satisfied.  As the “real story” was revealed, a hue and cry would have gone up that not only was the administration behaving “illegally,” but that it was being dishonest with the public. Nevertheless, this two track approach — grand pronouncements and concealed detail — seem just fine with most everyone right now.

The President boasted in his Inaugural Address that “we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” Perhaps if he were more candid with the American people they now would understand better what choices he actually is making. Then they could fairly assess just what has changed and what has remained constant, and just how the new President defines American ideals.


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