Secret \\\'Kill List\\\' Tests Obama\\\'s Principles (2)

01 جون 2012
\\\'Maintain My Options\\\'
A phalanx of retired generals and admirals stood behind Mr. Obama on the second day of his presidency, providing martial cover as he signed several executive orders to make good on campaign pledges. Brutal interrogation techniques were banned, he declared. And the prison at Guantánamo Bay would be closed.
What the new president did not say was that the orders contained a few subtle loopholes. They reflected a still unfamiliar Barack Obama, a realist who, unlike some of his fervent supporters, was never carried away by his own rhetoric. Instead, he was already putting his lawyerly mind to carving out the maximum amount of maneuvering room to fight terrorism as he saw fit.
It was a pattern that would be seen repeatedly, from his response to Republican complaints that he wanted to read terrorists their rights, to his acceptance of the C.I.A.\\\'s method for counting civilian casualties in drone strikes.
The day before the executive orders were issued, the C.I.A.\\\'s top lawyer, John A. Rizzo, had called the White House in a panic. The order prohibited the agency from operating detention facilities, closing once and for all the secret overseas \\\"black sites\\\" where interrogators had brutalized terrorist suspects.
\\\"The way this is written, you are going to take us out of the rendition business,\\\" Mr. Rizzo told Gregory B. Craig, Mr. Obama\\\'s White House counsel, referring to the much-criticized practice of grabbing a terrorist suspect abroad and delivering him to another country for interrogation or trial. The problem, Mr. Rizzo explained, was that the C.I.A. sometimes held such suspects for a day or two while awaiting a flight. The order appeared to outlaw that.
Mr. Craig assured him that the new president had no intention of ending rendition - only its abuse, which could lead to American complicity in torture abroad. So a new definition of \\\"detention facility\\\" was inserted, excluding places used to hold people \\\"on a short-term, transitory basis.\\\" Problem solved - and no messy public explanation damped Mr. Obama\\\'s celebration.
\\\"Pragmatism over ideology,\\\" his campaign national security team had advised in a memo in March 2008. It was counsel that only reinforced the president\\\'s instincts.
Even before he was sworn in, Mr. Obama\\\'s advisers had warned him against taking a categorical position on what would be done with Guantánamo detainees. The deft insertion of some wiggle words in the president\\\'s order showed that the advice was followed.
Some detainees would be transferred to prisons in other countries, or released, it said. Some would be prosecuted - if \\\"feasible\\\" - in criminal courts. Military commissions, which Mr. Obama had criticized, were not mentioned - and thus not ruled out.
As for those who could not be transferred or tried but were judged too dangerous for release? Their \\\"disposition\\\" would be handled by \\\"lawful means, consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice.\\\"
A few sharp-eyed observers inside and outside the government understood what the public did not. Without showing his hand, Mr. Obama had preserved three major policies - rendition, military commissions and indefinite detention - that have been targets of human rights groups since the 2001 terrorist attacks.
But a year later, with Congress trying to force him to try all terrorism suspects using revamped military commissions, he deployed his legal skills differently - to preserve trials in civilian courts.
It was shortly after Dec. 25, 2009, following a close call in which a Qaeda-trained operative named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had boarded a Detroit-bound airliner with a bomb sewn into his underwear.
Mr. Obama was taking a drubbing from Republicans over the government\\\'s decision to read the suspect his rights, a prerequisite for bringing criminal charges against him in civilian court.
The president \\\"seems to think that if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won\\\'t be at war,\\\" former Vice President Dick Cheney charged.
Sensing vulnerability on both a practical and political level, the president summoned his attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., to the White House.
F.B.I. agents had questioned Mr. Abdulmutallab for 50 minutes and gained valuable intelligence before giving him the warning. They had relied on a 1984 case called New York v. Quarles, in which the Supreme Court ruled that statements made by a suspect in response to urgent public safety questions - the case involved the location of a gun - could be introduced into evidence even if the suspect had not been advised of the right to remain silent.
Mr. Obama, who Mr. Holder said misses the legal profession, got into a colloquy with the attorney general. How far, he asked, could Quarles be stretched? Mr. Holder felt that in terrorism cases, the court would allow indefinite questioning on a fairly broad range of subjects.
Satisfied with the edgy new interpretation, Mr. Obama gave his blessing, Mr. Holder recalled.
\\\"Barack Obama believes in options: \\\'Maintain my options,\\\' \\\" said Jeh C. Johnson, a campaign adviser and now general counsel of the Defense Department.
( Continued)
Courtesy of Colunm New York Times