According to the New York Times, the Trump administration is poised to reinstate the so-called “black site” prisons used by the CIA during the Bush presidency.
President Trump’s three-page draft order, titled “Detention and Interrogation of Enemy Combatants” and obtained by The New York Times, would also undo many of the other restrictions on handling detainees that Mr. Obama put in place in response to policies of the George W. Bush administration.
If Mr. Trump signs the draft order, he would also revoke Mr. Obama’s directive to give the International Committee of the Red Cross access to all detainees in American custody. That would be another step toward reopening secret prisons outside of the normal wartime rules established by the Geneva Conventions, although statutory obstacles would remain.
The assertion that these facilities violate the Geneva Conventions is hardly proven law, as THE WEEKLY STANDARD has pointed out in the past:
There is something fundamentally impressive–even at this late date–in Americans’ having a big, brawling debate about how we should combat Islamic terrorism. Although the Supreme Court is on the verge of giving the protection of the Geneva Conventions to KSM and his kind, it’s still not too late for the war-making branches of government and the citizenry to debate whether the Geneva Conventions are appropriate for combating mass-casualty terrorism. But like President Bush, President Obama isn’t interested in debates about this issue. The president and senior congressional Democrats simply assert that we are safer because we no longer put senior members of al Qaeda through the wringer. A “false choice between our security and our ideals” isn’t necessary. Okay. But wouldn’t it be better if before making such a flat statement that the president and his team, let alone a more objective blue-ribbon, bipartisan commission, had assessed the 6,000 intelligence reports produced from the interrogation of CIA detainees? Isn’t it just possible that these individuals were more truthful and more talkative because they received Langley’s special attention?
And the overall effectiveness of the “black sites” has certainly been proven, expecially in the succesful hunt for Osama bin Laden. As TWS reported in 2011, interrogations at the sites provided vital information in the bin Laden operation:
“[W]e’ve got a little information on the couriers from some of the people that the CIA had detained and questioned at our so-called ‘black sites,'” Hayden told Hennen on the air. “So let’s start with that information and begin to build out from there. That started about four years ago, Scott. And, frankly, there is a straight line between the work that began there and the raid that took place Sunday afternoon our time.”
Hennen replied by asking: “Does this end once and for all in your view the debate over whether we ought to do enhanced interrogation techniques, whether we ought to have black sites, whether we ought to have Gitmo? Should that debate end here?”
“Well, I have a view, but I also know honest men can differ,” Hayden said. “There’s one thing that can end: A lot of people claimed you didn’t get any valuable intelligence out of these people or through these techniques, that’s not true. We did. And this is proof of it.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg View’s Eli Lake makes the case as to why Trump will not, ultimately, reinstate the policy:
To start, it’s illegal under U.S. law. And the draft executive order makes sure to say that any interrogations must be within the boundaries of the law. Trump acknowledged this as well in his interview with ABC News.
It’s also politically impractical. The draft executive order has drawn fire from members of both parties. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said Wednesday he would do everything within his power to stop any government steps to revive the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program. John McCain, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that the law of the land prohibits torture, regardless of any executive orders signed by Trump.
What’s more, current and former CIA officers have said they would not want to revive the program. It was such a mess for the agency that to this day, human rights groups have called for international prosecutions of senior officials who authorized it. CIA officers in the 2000s had to take out insurance policies in case they were sued in international or domestic courts.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer was asked about the draft document obtained by the Times and although he would not comment on the content of the draft order, he did say, “I’m not sure where it came from or where it originated, but it is not a White House document.”
This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard