Friday, January 23, 2009

Feingold on Obama's Executive Order to Close Guantanamo and Ban Torture

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) has been an outspoken critic of the abuses of the law by the Bush administration. Yesterday, Feingold wrote at the Huffington Post about Barack Obama's executive order to close Guantanamo and ban torture...

Just hours after his historic inauguration, President Obama has made history again, by signing executive orders that undo, with the stroke of a pen, some of the Bush Administration's worst mistakes. President Obama is off to a great start on restoring the rule of law, and he's giving the country the fresh start we desperately need after the last eight years.

President Obama has rejected the policies of the last administration, both in his words and in his actions. In short order, he has signed orders to close Guantanamo, suspend the military commission system, subject all interrogations to the guidelines in the Army Field Manual, end long-term CIA detentions, require humane treatment of detainees consistent with the Geneva Conventions, and guarantee the International Committee of the Red Cross access to all prisoners held by the U.S. government, and announced a return to the presumption of FOIA disclosure under the Clinton administration. That is a breathtaking list, and the beginning of change that is long overdue.

The new President's quick actions to end both excessive secrecy and flawed detention and interrogation policies are very encouraging. I have long opposed the Bush administration's policies in these areas. As chair of the Senate's Constitution Subcommittee, I held a hearing shining a light on the secret laws that last administration created - keeping OLC opinions under lock and key, for instance - and called for a major overhaul of these policies. I also held a hearing in September 2008 on restoring the rule of law, at which John Podesta and others testified about what changes should be made by a new administration. In December, I wrote then President-elect Obama urging him to take these and other vital steps to restore the rule of law. I applaud his quick action on these issues. It's a great sign of his commitment to working on the other issues that still need to be addressed, from the separation of powers to domestic surveillance and privacy.

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