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Remarks by President Barack Obama at his Signing of Executive Orders Closing the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility, Implementing Use of the Army Field Manual Governmentwide, Setting Up a Special Interagency Task Force on Detainee Disposition, and the ...


REMARKS BY PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA AT HIS SIGNING OF EXECUTIVE ORDERS CLOSING THE GUANTANAMO BAY DETENTION FACILITY, IMPLEMENTING USE OF THE ARMY FIELD MANUAL GOVERNMENTWIDE, SETTING UP A SPECIAL INTERAGENCY TASK FORCE ON DETAINEE DISPOSITION, AND THE CASE OF ALI SALEH KAHLAH AL-MARRI

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PRESIDENT OBAMA: (In progress) -- order that we are signing. "By the authority vested in me as president of the -- president by the Constitution under the laws of the United States of America, in order to effect the appropriate disposition of individuals currently detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo, and promptly to close the detention facility at Guantanamo consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, and the interest of justice, I hereby order" and we then provide the process whereby Guantanamo will be closed no later than one year from now.

We will do -- is there a separate executive order, Greg, with respect to how we're going to dispose of the detainees? Is that written?

GREGORY B. CRAIG (White House counsel): (Off mike) -- set up a process -- (off mike).

PRESIDENT OBAMA: We will be setting up a process whereby this is going to be taking place.

The individuals who are standing behind me represent flag officers who came to both Joe and myself, and all the candidates, and made a passionate plea that we restore the standards of due process and the -- the core constitutional values that have made this country great even in the midst of war, even in dealing with terrorism. They've made an extraordinary impression on me. They are outstanding Americans who have fought and defended this country. And for them to fight on behalf of our constitutional ideals and values I think is exceptional, so I wanted to make sure that they were here to witness the signing of this executive order.

(The order was signed.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: There we go. (Applause.)

STAFF: Thank you, everybody. Thank you.

Q No, there's another one.

Q You got one more.

(Cross talk.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: There are -- there -- there -- there are three of these.

MR. : Actually, several more. (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: This one.

"By the authority vested in me by the Constitution under the laws of the United States of America, in order to improve the effectiveness of human intelligence gathering and to promote the safe, lawful and humane treatment of individuals in United States custody and of United States personnel who are detained in armed conflicts, and to ensure compliance with the treaty obligations of the United States, including the Geneva Conventions, and to take care that the laws of the United States are faithfully executed, I issue this following executive order" -- that effectively ensures that anybody detained by the United States for now is going to be -- any interrogations taking place are -- are going to have to abide by the Army Field Manual. We believe that the Army Field Manual reflects the best judgment of our military -- that we can abide by a rule that says we don't torture, but that we can still effectively obtain the intelligence that we need.

This is me following through on not just a commitment I made during the campaign, but I think a -- an understanding that dates back to our Founding Fathers, that we are willing to observe core standards of conduct not just when it's easy, but also when it's hard. And so with that, let me sign the next executive order.

(The order was signed.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: There you go. (Applause.)

All right, we got one more.

MS. : Actually two more.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Two more. I got two more.

What we're doing here is to set up a special interagency task force on detainee disposition. It's going to be made up of the attorney general, secretary of Defense, secretary of State, secretary of Homeland Security, director of National Intelligence, the director of the CIA, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and any other officers that we may need. They are going to provide me with information in terms of how we are able to deal in the disposition of some of the detainees that may be currently in Guantanamo that we cannot transfer to other countries, who could pose a serious danger to the United States, but we cannot try because of various problems related to evidence in a(n) Article III court. So this task force is going to provide us with a -- a series of recommendations on that.

Is that correct, Greg?

MR. CRAIG: That's right. And detainee policy going forward.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: And detainee policy going forward, so that we -- we don't find ourselves in these kinds of situations in the future.

MR. CRAIG: And we have clear guidance for our military as well as -- (off mike).

PRESIDENT OBAMA: And that we are providing clear guidance to our military in terms of how to deal with it.

Okay.

(The order was signed.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: There we go. (Applause.)

And finally, this is a -- a much more specific issue related to the current detention of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri. Some of you are familiar with the al-Marri case. You have a legal resident who has been detained. He is clearly a dangerous individual. His case is currently before the Supreme Court. We have asked for a delay in dealing -- going before the Supreme Court and dealing with this case so that we can properly review the evidence against him and the various policies that have been presented up until this time. So --

(The order was signed.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: All right. (Applause.)

With those three executive orders and this memorandum, the message that we are sending around 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, 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. And all of the individuals who are standing behind me, as well as I think the American people, understand that we are not, as I said in the inauguration, going to continue with a false choice between our safety and our ideals. We think that it is precisely our ideals that give us the strength and the moral high ground to be able to effectively deal with the unthinking violence that we see emanating from terrorist organizations around the world.

We intend to win this fight. We're going to win it on our terms.

Thank you, everybody.

END.


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