Barack Obama's first official act in office addressed not the economy or health care but Guantanamo. In a moment of high drama, surrounded by a phalanx of retired military brass, the president signed a series of executive orders acknowledging that "the individuals currently detained at Guantanamo have the constitutional privilege of the writ of habeas corpus," providing that the executive branch would undertake "a prompt and thorough review" of whether the "continued detention" of the men at Guantanamo "is in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and in the interests of justice," and ordering that "the detention facilities at Guantanamo...shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than 1 year from the date of this order." Obama issued a separate executive order banning the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques," i.e., torture.
As far as Guantanamo was concerned, those executive orders would represent the high-water mark of the Obama presidency, writes Gary A. Isaac, counsel at Mayer Brown LLP. The first year of his administration was noteworthy not for the closure of Guantanamo but for a series of unilateral actions that were starkly at odds with the president's rhetorical defense of habeas corpus and that doomed his much-heralded directive to close the island facility.
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