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Obama's orders to close Gitmo, overhaul interrogation

WASHINGTON - Moving to claim what he described as "the moral high ground," President Barack Obama took a series of steps yesterday to dismantle the most widely condemned components of the Bush administration's war on terror.

Obama issued executive orders to shutter the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, detention camp within a year, close the CIA's network of secret overseas prisons and end the agency's use of interrogation techniques that critics describe as torture.

- Click to see photos of Guantanamo Bay

- Click to see the most recent photos of President Barack Obama

But Obama put off many of the most difficult decisions about what the United States will do with detainees and left room to revisit whether the CIA still should have permission to use coercive methods when questioning captives.

Nonetheless, human-rights advocates hailed the steps he took yesterday. And the president was applauded during a State Department visit when he told diplomats: "I can say without exception or equivocation that the United States will not torture."

On Capitol Hill, Dennis Blair, the retired admiral nominated to be the director of national intelligence, said the government would look at revising the rules in the U.S. Army Field Manual, a move that could allow the CIA to add interrogation techniques.

And the Obama administration will give itself a year to close the prison at Guan- tánamo; the timeline will allow the government to determine which detainees should be tried, which should be transferred and what to do with any new accused terrorists.

"The message that we are sending the world is that the United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism and we are going to do so vigilantly and we are going to do so effectively and we are going to do so in a manner that is consistent with our values and our ideals," Obama said.

The Army Field Manual limits interrogators to 19 approved techniques, bans torture and eschews harsh questioning practices. The techniques rely on various psychological approaches and prohibit interrogators from making physical contact with suspects or using any force.

The executive order will make the field manual the basis for all interrogations. Obama said the order shows that the United States would "observe core standards of conduct, not just when it's easy, but also when it's hard."

His Guantánamo orders set in motion plans to close the prison, establishing a review procedure to allow officials to examine the cases of the 245 detainees. The government will determine which ones can be transferred to other countries and which should be tried in U.S. federal courts.

The order acknowledges that some detainees might be considered dangerous but might not be able to be tried in a federal court or military court-martial. But it is vague about how the administration will handle those cases.

Some Republicans blasted the order for that sort of imprecision. "This is an executive order that places hope ahead of reality - it sets an objective without a plan to get there," Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) said.

- Click to see photos of Guantanamo Bay

- Click to see the most recent photos of President Barack Obama

OBAMA'S ORDERS

Ordered the closing of the Guantánamo Bay prison camp within a year.

Ordered the closing of any remaining CIA secret prisons overseas.

Banned harsh interrogation practices.

Announced the appointment of former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell as special envoy to the Middle East.

Announced the naming of former UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke as

special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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