Executive orders from the office of the new President are trickling in at a faster pace now. Here’s the rundown so far:
- Guantanamo Bay must be closed down within a year. Nothing is clear yet about what exactly the government plans to do with the detainees, whose trials have been suspended. Along with Guantanamo, the CIA has been ordered to shut down their overseas network of covert prisons where they’ve kept suspects in secret custody for months or years. Another order Obama signed created a task force to figure out what to do next.
- The U.S. Army Field Manual is now the official standard for interrogation for all U.S. personnel; it prohibits waterboarding as well as threats, coercion, and physical abuse. A pretty tight restriction on anything approaching torture, but a source of the Washington Post suggests that there may be revisions to that manual in store, which would re-expand what is allowed.
- Along with requesting that military judges suspend the trials of the Guantanamo detainees, another order suspended the trial of Ali al-Marri, who is accused of being an al-Qaeda agent and is being held indefinitely as an “enemy combatant.” His status and fate remains uncertain as well.
- All White House officials who makes more than $100k is getting a pay freeze.
- Executive branch employees are prohibited from taking any gifts from lobbyists. (It’s hard but not impossible, sadly, to believe that this wasn’t a rule before. I haven’t been able to find out if it was or not.)
- Hiring, firing, and other employment practices in the executive branch must now be made based on qualifications, competence, and experience, as opposed to political connections. (This is thought by some to be a repudiation of how former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez fired a bunch of prosecutors who weren’t faithfully doing everything Republicans told them to.)
- New executive branch appointees may not take part in any matter related to any employer or client that they’ve worked with during the last two years, or work on any issue area or in any department of government that they lobbied during the last two years. This is intended to stop “revolving door” cronyism, of course, and may affect a lot of Obama’s staff. UPDATE: In fact, it looks like the administration may already have to seek a waiver from this rule for William Lynn, nominated to be Deputy Secretary of Defense, because Lynn was a vice-president and Raytheon and now would be involved in budgeting and acquisitions. DOH way to make a rule and break it, in the military-industrial complex no less.
- Similarly, executive branch employees who leave government service are now prohibited from lobbying the executive branch for two years after they leave or the rest of the Obama administration, whichever is longer.
- Other officials besides the President *cough*CHENEY*cough* can no longer claim executive privilege to keep executive-branch documents sealed. Bush gave that power to former Presidents and Vice-Presidents as well… oops, can’t seal your old records any more! Now, if even the President wants to exercise that power, the act must still be reviewed for constitutionality by the Attorney General and the White House counsel.
- Obama has ordered new guidelines to be developed for government communication and the Freedom of Information Act to implement principles of openness, transparency, and participatory government.
Sounds good to me so far, although I expect the “up in the air” status of Guantanamo detainees is unlikely to make anyone happy, especially the right wing. Still, for now it means no more hidden prison networks, no more waterboarding, and slightly fewer possibilities for secrecy and cronyism.
I am still waiting anxiously to see if more orders are signed rescinding some of Bush’s worst orders, like the one cutting off overseas aid for organizations that even breathe the word “abortion,” and the one letting health care providers refuse treatment without referral whenever it conflicts with their beliefs. After all, it is the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade today, and Blog for Choice day too.
UPDATE: According to California NOW the Department of Health & Human Services has confirmed that they have yet to develop guidelines for implementing the “conscience rule” that would allow health care providers to refuse service if they didn’t like it. Because Obama’s team issued an order halting any implementation of last-minute Bush directives until they can be reviewed, it looks like that rule will not be going forward. I can’t imagine the Obama administration would review it and let it continue.
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