For Immediate Release
Feingold Hails Obama Executive Orders as a Triumph for the Rule of Law
Orders to Increase Transparency, Close Guantanamo, and End Torture Fall in Line With Feingold Recommendations
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Russ Feingold praised President Barack Obama's decision to issue executive orders to end abusive interrogation tactics, close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, and end the Bush Administration program of CIA detentions. Yesterday, Feingold applauded President Obama's executive orders to increase transparency by reinstating the presumption of disclosure established by the Clinton administration. Feingold has been calling on President Obama to work to restore the rule of law by addressing key issues including detainee and interrogation polices and excessive government secrecy.
"President Obama's first days in office have been a triumph for the rule of law," Feingold said. "His executive orders yesterday to reverse the secretive practices of the previous administration and the ones he signed today to end abusive interrogation tactics, bring detentions within the law, and close Guantanamo within a year are all critical steps toward undoing the damage done over the last eight years. I recognize this will not be easy, and I will work closely with the administration to ensure that the cases of all the Guantanamo detainees are handled in accordance with domestic and international law. While this is a great start to restoring our Constitution, there is still much to be done. I look forward to working with President Obama to put our country back on the right path."
On December 10th, Feingold, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations, Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, wrote a letter to then President-elect Obama that included a list of suggested steps Obama could take unilaterally to restore the rule of law. The recommendations were based on a hearing Feingold chaired in the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution where constitutional experts, including Obama Transition Team Co-Chairman John Podesta, offered testimony on how the next administration could reverse the eight year assault on the Constitution by the Bush administration. Included in the letter were recommendations to:
· Commit to enforcing the ban on torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and revoke all existing orders and legal opinions authorizing cruel interrogations. President Obama's order today requires all agencies of the U.S. government, including the CIA, to abide by the Army Field Manual's guidance concerning interrogations.
· Close the facility at Guantanamo Bay as President Obama had pledged to do during the campaign. President Obama today ordered that Guantanamo will be closed within a year.
· Reject the flawed military commission trial system being used at Guantanamo Bay. President Obama issued an executive order yesterday suspending all trials at Guantanamo Bay for 120 days.
· Commit to providing timely notification of and access to the International Committee of the Red Cross for any and all detainees held in U.S. custody anywhere in the world. Today, President Obama issued an executive order ending illegal CIA detentions and allowing ICRC access to anyone held in custody by the U.S. government. In addition, the executive order on Guantanamo provides that the treatment of prisoners must conform to all applicable laws, including the Geneva Conventions.
· Reinstate the presumption of disclosure established by the Clinton administration to defend an agency's decision to withhold a document only if the agency reasonably foresees that disclosure would be harmful to an interest protected by one of the Freedom of Information Act's exemptions. President Obama accepted that recommendation in his announcement yesterday concerning transparency and disclosure.
Feingold's December 10th letter is available at http://feingold.senate.gov/record.cfm?id=306282.