Obama repudiates Bush interrogation policies

A new executive order contains a stinging rebuke of the Bush administration's legal justifications for its policy.

By Alex Koppelman

Published January 22, 2009 7:00PM (EST)

Thursday, President Obama signed four executive orders that represent a break with Bush administration policies about the treatment of detainees suspected of involvement with terrorism. One order mandates the closing of the prison at Guantánamo Bay within a year; another lays out rules for interrogation, a third establishes a task force to determine how to deal with those currently held at Guantánamo and the fourth is about the case of detainee Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri.

By the time Obama signed the orders, they weren't a surprise. But some of the wording still stands out, particularly this section from the order regarding interrogations:

From this day forward, unless the Attorney General with appropriate consultation provides further guidance, officers, employees, and other agents of the United States Government may, in conducting interrogations, act in reliance upon Army Field Manual 2 22.3, but may not, in conducting interrogations, rely upon any interpretation of the law governing interrogation -- including interpretations of Federal criminal laws, the Convention Against Torture, Common Article 3, Army Field Manual 2 22.3, and its predecessor document, Army Field Manual 34 52 issued by the Department of Justice between September 11, 2001, and January 20, 2009.

Short version: With one stroke of a pen, Obama just erased more than seven years of the Justice Department's legal justifications for the Bush administration's interrogation policies.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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