The PoliBlog

The Collective
Saturday, July 21, 2007
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Yesterday the President issued an Executive Order that defines what the CIA cannot do in regards to interrogations of prisoners believed to have information on terrorism (or, I suppose, anything else). Specifically the administration is attempting to address issues raised by the Supreme Court (via the AP):

The executive order is the White House’s first public effort to reach into the CIA’s five-year-old terror detention program, which has been in limbo since a Supreme Court decision last year called its legal foundation into question.

Several thoughts come to mind. First, as WaPo and the NYT, note this morning, the EO allows the program to resume (it has supposedly been on hold) and the guidelines in question are rather broad and vague. Still, as the NYT notes, it would seem that these rules do scale back what the CIA is allowed to do:

Several officials said the permitted techniques did not include some of the most controversial past techniques, among them “waterboarding,” which induces a feeling of drowning, and exposure to extremes of heat and cold.

I must confess as to having a hard time taking this all that seriously. For one, I concur with the following (via the WaPo story):

“All the order really does is to have the president say, ‘Everything in that other document that I’m not showing you is legal — trust me,’ ” said Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch.

That is standard operating procedure for the administration–they are big on the “trust me” mode of argumentation. And really, I have to say that I agree with Jeralyn Merritt:

This has all the earmarks of an order designed to continue rather than limit CIA abusive interrogation techniques.

However, beyond that, when the President does things like he did yesterday, i.e., basically say that he will not allow the DoJ to prosecute specific laws that he doesn’t like (at least if they challenge his executive prerogatives) or given his usage of signing statements, which basically say he will ignore the parts of the law he doesn’t like, how can we take seriously that the President will necessarily follow his own guidelines?

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Filed under: US Politics, War on Terror | |

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