Did Obama allow exception for “temporary” CIA black sites?

posted at 12:20 pm on January 28, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

When Barack Obama signed the executive order that closed secret CIA detention facilities abroad, known as “black sites”, the world cheered as they saw American intelligence defanged.  After all, without some kind of detention facilities, how would the CIA hold wanted terrorists even for a few days while determining how to process them?  Suspected terrorists would either have to be killed outright — not very Hope-and-Changey — or intelligence agents would have to let them go about their business.  Eli Lake at the Washington Times discovers that Obama’s order leaves a little-noticed loophole to cover such situations:

President Obama’s executive order closing CIA “black sites” contains a little-noticed exception that allows the spy agency to continue to operate temporary detention facilities abroad.

The provision illustrates that the president’s order to shutter foreign-based prisons, known as black sites, is not airtight and that the Central Intelligence Agency still has options if it wants to hold terrorist suspects for several days at a time.

Current and former U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition that they aren’t identified because of the sensitivity of the subject, said such temporary facilities around the world will remain open, giving the administration the opportunity to seize and hold assumed terrorists.

The detentions would be temporary. Suspects either would be brought later to the United States for trial or sent to other countries where they are wanted and can face trial.

The exception is evidence that the new administration, while announcing an end to many elements of the Bush “war on terror,” is leaving itself wiggle room to continue some of its predecessor’s practices regarding terrorist suspects.

I have no complaints about that loophole.  The war on terrorism, or terrorists, or Islamic fundamentalist terrorists — whatever the new administration wants to call it — will require our intelligence agencies to work on the front lines.  They need to grab dangerous people before they can carry out attacks, not afterwards when thousands or perhaps millions of Americans lay dead in the streets.  That means the CIA needs reliable detention facilities abroad.

The Obama administration doesn’t want the CIA holding people in these facilities forever, though, and that’s a reasonable concern.  Mistakes can still be made, and that means the US has to have some kind of system to vet the detainees independently of the capturing agents.  That doesn’t mean they should appear in a federal court in LA or Minneapolis, but some method of determining danger, value, and process for each suspected terrorist grabbed by intel agencies.  The military has a tribunal system for processing such detainees (and their own detention facilities); the CIA could use the military system for these purposes.

Of course, the military uses Guantanamo Bay for much of this work, and Obama wants it closed within a year.  We still don’t know what Obama proposes for a replacement, both in location and process.  Until we know that, we can’t properly assess this executive order and its rather wide and unnoticed loophole.


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“every statement from barry has an expiration date” — J. Gearahty, NRO

Buckaroo on January 28, 2009 at 12:23 PM

They only difference is calling them “safe houses” vs Dana Priest’s dramatic license with use of the word “prison” in order to conjure up some “black” hidden away “prison”. Same program, same rules, just new politically correct name.

Democrats are so dumb.

Topsecretk9 on January 28, 2009 at 12:24 PM

The detentions would be temporary.

They already are temporary. Change you can laugh at.

Vashta.Nerada on January 28, 2009 at 12:26 PM

If he weren’t flaming liberal, I might have confidence that he would quietly leave himself a loophole to protect this country, but I’m going to have to go with oversight on this one.

Ronnie on January 28, 2009 at 12:26 PM

“Present”

dish on January 28, 2009 at 12:28 PM

The difference between Barry’s question and answer rooms and President Bush’s Q&A rooms is with the staff. Barry’s staff will have to walk on eggshells to avoid being turned over to the mob.

Limerick on January 28, 2009 at 12:29 PM

The entire Obama presidency is a loophole. Watch the liberals exploit it.

LimeyGeek on January 28, 2009 at 12:29 PM

So Obama says something to appease the spineless left in this country & the world, but technically does nothing. Man, the aura of Hope & Change that has engulfed me for months, is starting to look like an aura of Bullshit!

MDWNJ on January 28, 2009 at 12:30 PM

Aye-yup…

I’m pretty sure that the BLACK SECRET OPS PRISONS were, in reality, holding cells in existing CIA offices around the world. Unless Obama destroyed them (and he didn’t) they’re still usable and all his notice does is say they can’t hold them permanently… which they probably never did.

Also little noticed is that BUSH ALREADY ORDERED the “BLACK OPS SECRET PRISONS” to give up all their prisoners in 2006 (per the original Washington Post article) and moved the detainees to Guantanamo.

Skywise on January 28, 2009 at 12:30 PM

The detentions would be temporary. Suspects either would be brought later to the United States for trial or sent to other countries where they are wanted and can face trial.

Neither of those options pleases me. We NEED Gitmo.

IrishEi on January 28, 2009 at 12:32 PM

Maybe this is why Carter is on a roll with making incredulous and inane statements….he doesn’t want to be outperformed by Obama.

LimeyGeek on January 28, 2009 at 12:33 PM

The entire Obama presidency is a loophole

Obama, The Loophole President

Topsecretk9 on January 28, 2009 at 12:33 PM

I can’t believe how these shameless bloggers keep revealing national security secrets to score political points. Stupid Democrats!

Jazz Shaw on January 28, 2009 at 12:34 PM

A little OT: Is Barry doing wiretapping?

cntrlfrk on January 28, 2009 at 12:36 PM

“Topsecretk9 on January 28, 2009 at 12:33 PM”

loopy barry — I LUV IT!
:-)

Buckaroo on January 28, 2009 at 12:36 PM

So how far do they have to move the cells and does the barb wire fence posts need to be moved on a daily basis, too?

Oh wait, maybe by closing CIA blacksites, Obama means the ships can’t anchor for more than 2 hours at a time.

Greatest President in generations.

Dusty on January 28, 2009 at 12:36 PM

Topsecretk9 on January 28, 2009 at 12:24 PM

Exactly.
Obama would have to make it illegal for the CIA to detain people at all in order to stop what was going on.
Which he won’t do.

While I applaud the wisdom of his action, it irks me to no end that he benefited from the propaganda war against Bush.

MayBee on January 28, 2009 at 12:38 PM

[Jazz Shaw on January 28, 2009 at 12:34 PM}

Let me guess, by revealing national security secrets you mean read the published executive order?

Dusty on January 28, 2009 at 12:40 PM

Seriously, they are using the same “facilities” and engaging in the same practice, they just relabeled it “hold facilities” at “safehouses” all more palatable language in order to placate the ignorant democrats and satisfy the more savvy hypocritical Dems and the media — but I repeat myself.

Topsecretk9 on January 28, 2009 at 12:40 PM

Temporary; if they’re innocent, let them go. If they’re guilty, shoot them and dump the bodies in the ocean, to feed the sea kitties.

Dear Leader also doesn’t want lobbyists in his administration, except when he does.

rbj on January 28, 2009 at 12:41 PM

What a conman.

marklmail on January 28, 2009 at 12:42 PM

dish on January 28, 2009 at 12:28 PM

LOL!!!

D2Boston on January 28, 2009 at 12:43 PM

Now that the all or nothing debate on Gitmo is on the table, everyone who cares needs to get Inside Gitmo by Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu right now. The corrective to the last four years of Gulag slander and the reality of Gitmo’s necessity will make your blood boil.

Sarge6 on January 28, 2009 at 12:45 PM

Maybee

While I applaud the wisdom of his action, it irks me to no end that he benefited from the propaganda war against Bush.

Obama. A profile in courage.

Topsecretk9 on January 28, 2009 at 12:45 PM

“Safe houses” and not “prisons. Pure and simple.

Have been addressing this since the beginning. Obama would be a total fool were he to proscribe the Agency from rounding up AQ and others and moving them to another location, in a third country, for debriefing, vetting, and other administrative matters before adjudicating whether or not these would be sent to Gitmo, sent to their home countries or sent to yet another country (rendition…a common term during the Clinton Administration) or recruited to go back to AQ or other organizations and carry out their assigned tasks, or simply released.

We’ve been doing this sort of thing since the early 1950′s. Bringing them directly to the US, as was done in a few noted cases, simply screws up the works…grants them US-person status as a “landed immigrant” and thus affords them 100% of the Constitutional guarantees of US citizens and legal residents.) So, we hole them up in Ouagadougou or some other out of the way place…extra-territorial place…and get to work.

Loophole? If you read any of Obama’s Exec orders…there are tons of loopholes. His on camera signings and follow-on rhetoric are simply Kabuki theater meant for the mindless masses who voted for him.

coldwarrior on January 28, 2009 at 12:45 PM

This exact point was made by a commenter here on HA the day Obama made the announcement. I can’t remember who it was, but if you’re out there, kudos. You called it.

Weight of Glory on January 28, 2009 at 12:46 PM

All politics, all the time. How is that going to help Michelle’s Children?

kirkill on January 28, 2009 at 12:46 PM

Racist!!

Conservative_SAHM on January 28, 2009 at 12:52 PM

Seeing stuff about our intel policies splashed across the Internet makes me nauseous. I don’t care who is doing it.

baldilocks on January 28, 2009 at 12:52 PM

See, we’ll support him where we can.

Cindy Munford on January 28, 2009 at 12:53 PM

Of course, the military uses Guantanamo Bay for much of this work, and Obama wants it closed within a year. We still don’t know what Obama proposes for a replacement, both in location and process.

We don’t need it anymore. Everybody loves us now.

Jim Treacher on January 28, 2009 at 12:53 PM

“baldilocks on January 28, 2009 at 12:52 PM”

amen to that …

Buckaroo on January 28, 2009 at 12:53 PM

Seeing stuff about our intel policies splashed across the Internet makes me nauseous. I don’t care who is doing it.

baldilocks on January 28, 2009 at 12:52 PM

Isn’t this information in the public domain?

LimeyGeek on January 28, 2009 at 12:54 PM

Loophole? If you read any of Obama’s Exec orders…there are tons of loopholes. His on camera signings and follow-on rhetoric are simply Kabuki theater meant for the mindless masses who voted for him.

coldwarrior on January 28, 2009 at 12:45 PM

Eh, let’s hope so.

baldilocks on January 28, 2009 at 12:55 PM

Isn’t this information in the public domain?

LimeyGeek on January 28, 2009 at 12:54 PM

Yes. That’s not why it makes me nauseous. I have skin in the game.

baldilocks on January 28, 2009 at 12:56 PM

Yes. That’s not why it makes me nauseous. I have skin in the game.

baldilocks on January 28, 2009 at 12:56 PM

Ah….gotcha. Good point.

LimeyGeek on January 28, 2009 at 12:58 PM

This exact point was made by a commenter here on HA the day Obama made the announcement. I can’t remember who it was, but if you’re out there, kudos. You called it.

As long as you don’t remember who it was, I’ll take the credit. :-)

MayBee on January 28, 2009 at 1:00 PM

The ‘most transparent administration’ evah! Even that appears to have an expiration date.

GarandFan on January 28, 2009 at 1:03 PM

Even that appears to have an expiration date.

GarandFan on January 28, 2009 at 1:03 PM

To continue the analogy a little further….his election platform had a “display until Nov 4″ sticker, with an expiration date of Jan 21.

LimeyGeek on January 28, 2009 at 1:05 PM

“Common sense”

I doubt the loophole, for the reason stated in quotes.

notagool on January 28, 2009 at 1:05 PM

Someone please explain this whole fiasco to me. If I am getting this right, Obambi orders Gitmo and all the black sites closed… why?

Gitmo houses accused terrorist await trial. The only thing closing Gitmo accomplishes is to necessitate that we move the same people to a different place, most likely within the US since no one else will have them. We can’t free them, also, because no one will have them (with the exception of the terrorist that we took them from).

So, Obambi signs an order to close one prison for the purpose of incurring the costs and logistical challenges of building a new prison, transporting all his buddies to their new digs and leaving every conceivable other facet of things intact. How does this make any sense or benefit anyone?

Wouldn’t it have been cheaper and easier to simply rename Gitmo to “Unicorn House” or “Misunderstood Fundamentalist Housing Committee” or something?

And why would anyone think that signing an executive order that accomplishes nothing other than necessitating executive waivers and exceptions is progress of any sort?

Damiano on January 28, 2009 at 1:07 PM

Change you can believe in! (if you don’t read the fine print)

gwelf on January 28, 2009 at 1:09 PM

“African-American sites”, please!

Chuck Schick on January 28, 2009 at 1:10 PM

One thing about this info being in the public domain: I don’t think that we can count on our officials who compose EOs/docs/etc. for the president to endorse knowing which will/won’t help the enemy. Not anymore.

baldilocks on January 28, 2009 at 1:11 PM

“African-American sites”, please!

Chuck Schick on January 28, 2009 at 1:10 PM

Why are you associating the brutha with prisons? RACIST!

“Photon-deprived sites”, if you please…

LimeyGeek on January 28, 2009 at 1:12 PM

Chuck Schick on January 28, 2009 at 1:10 PM

Heh.

baldilocks on January 28, 2009 at 1:12 PM

Not anymore.

baldilocks on January 28, 2009 at 1:11 PM

Not for quite some time.

LimeyGeek on January 28, 2009 at 1:13 PM

Skywise on January 28, 2009 at 12:30 PM

So basically, Obama has done NOTHING. He just made it look like he actually did something.

I have high school students like that in Study Hall. They spend a lot of time & effort making it look like they are actually working, when in reality, they aren’t.

Badger40 on January 28, 2009 at 1:14 PM

Just like liberals
they dont have the BALLS to do what is right
So they piggyback on the REAL presidents decisions
all the while denoucing him..

I am waiting for obama to get on his knees
and begin to BEG Abina WakJob forgiveness

Liberals they make me SICK..

jcila on January 28, 2009 at 1:27 PM

little-noticed loophole

What do you mean a “little-noticed loophole ?”

How difficult is it for our vaunted press to read an EO and see this, and then REPORT IT?

Notice this is printed in the Wash Times, not the seditious comPost.

CHANGE!

Not.

ex-Democrat on January 28, 2009 at 1:40 PM

One man’s “common sense” is another man’s “my President is a liar and a fool”.

Guess which is whose?

Jaibones on January 28, 2009 at 1:48 PM

How long is “permanent” detention anyway? 6 months? 6 years? Until death by natural causes?

I bet more terrorist suspects start turning up dead… accidently, of course…or, dead as the result of attempted escapes, naturally.

Wyznowski on January 28, 2009 at 3:06 PM

Obama doesn’t really mean what he says, he utters everything just because he wants power.

Whatever snookers enough suckers is what he will proclaim.

Then he will change course when caught in a lie and try some other form of b.s.

Three-card Monty meet Four-faced Barry.

profitsbeard on January 28, 2009 at 3:47 PM

Temporary means until the day before Mr. Obama leaves office. Change we can believe in.

eaglewingz08 on January 28, 2009 at 4:50 PM

There’s that “flinty Chicago toughness” again.

Brat on January 28, 2009 at 5:29 PM

Here’s the difference between Bush and Obama on these controversial but necessary options: Bush would publicly defend what he was doing rather than try to hide it, Obama will do the same things that Bush was so criticized for, but sneakily, so you never know exactly what is being done, all the while pretending to be above it.

I’m still laughing at the guy who said the price of gas was coming down, “now that was have an honest man in there.” [the presidency] These people can’t recognize that Bush was honest, even when you didn’t agree with him, and foolishly believe Obama is.

tom on January 28, 2009 at 7:39 PM

He woke up in the morning, and forgetting about his Ex-Order, he thought the “black sites” were a minority set-aside program, so of course he asked for a temporary extension.

smellthecoffee on January 28, 2009 at 8:58 PM