During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to "end the use torture without exception." Initially we gave him a rating of In the Works, but we are now ready to give him a Promise Kept. (We address the other part of this promise, on extraordinary rendition, in a separate item.)
As we indicated the last time we looked at this question, Obama acted two days after taking office -- Jan. 22, 2009 -- by issuing a detailed executive order on torture and related issues.
The executive order said that prisoners "shall in all circumstances be treated humanely and shall not be subjected to violence to life and person (including murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment, and torture), nor to outrages upon personal dignity (including humiliating and degrading treatment)." It also specifically nullifies interpretations of federal law on interrogations "issued by the Department of Justice between September 11, 2001, and January 20, 2009" under President George W. Bush.
The executive order brings the CIA into line with U.S. Army Field Manual on Interrogation, said said Tom Malinowski, Washington director for Human Rights Watch. This limits interrogators to humane techniques, a standard that already applies as a matter of law to the U.S. military, he said.
In addition, Obama "created a High Value Interrogation Group to manage the debriefing of the most important suspected terrorist captives using humane, non-coercive techniques," Malinowski said. "This doesn't mean that abuse never happens, but there is no policy of abuse any more, and there is strong leadership from the president on down to prevent it."
Even the American Civil Liberties Union -- in a report that generally expressed skepticism about how much Obama had changed the Bush administration's policies on countering terrorism -- acknowledged that his actions on torture were strong.
Some of the Bush-era policies "have been stopped," the report said. "Torture … (is) no longer officially condoned. … President Obama categorically disavowed torture when he came to office, and closed the secret CIA prisons where so much of the abuse took place."
We rate this a Promise Kept.