WASHINGTON – President Obama on Thursday is expected to issue at least three executive orders and one presidential directive relating to national security and one abortion policy order, all reversals of Bush administration policy.
The national security orders would mandate that interrogation techniques in the Army Field Manual be used by all intelligence and law enforcement services; would call for a task force to look at closing the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within the year; and would order a strategy be developed for handling detainees in the future. A presidential directive would also order a stay in the case of Ali Al-Marri, the only person being held by the military as an enemy combatant on U.S. soil.
The executive order will say everyone in custody should be questioned under the Army Field Manual, which is intended for honorable combatants, meaning POWs in a military conflict. The rule would prevent trained interrogators at the CIA from using lawful interrogation techniques against terrorists who have been trained to withstand Army Field Manual techniques.
According to sources in the law enforcement community, the executive order on interrogation will not declare "enhanced interrogation techniques" to be torture; the order will be silent on that.
"This allows for a lot of flexibility, a lot of wiggle room," said one source.
While the administration has insisted on one interrogation standard, one source says they are thinking about assembling a group within the next 60 days to make recommendations on a set of separate techniques for the intelligence community to use.
White House counsel Greg Craig acknowledged late Wednesday that the administration will have to establish a panel to make recommendations to address intelligence community concerns.
Separately, according to a draft of the Guantanamo order, "the prompt disposition" of detainee cases should "precede" the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison. Whether that means the detainees have to be tried if possible before the closure is still unclear.
The draft also appears to indicate that Obama will leave open a back door in the order ending the military tribunals.
Obama has said he wants to end the military commissions process but does not have anything to replace it. So, sources say, the administration will seek recommendations within the next six or seven months on how to try them.
Administration officials indicated they do not want detainees outside of the U.S. to get habeas corpus rights or rights similar to those enjoyed by U.S. citizens. The Obama administration will likely go to Congress for what it wants to accomplish.
The order will direct that all information regarding the remaining 245 detainees be consolidated in a central repository and will create a panel to review those cases and split the detainees up into three categories.
Category one is comprised of the 70 detainees that President Bush sought to repatriate but couldn't because no country wants them, and they would likely be tortured at home. The Obama administration believes they can get foreign countries to take them.
Category two is the group of detainees that can be prosecuted under war crimes in Article III courts — federal courts designed to address cases that involve citizens of other countries — or tried in modified military commissions. This includes Sept. 11 planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. The administration would seek a stay on habeas petitions in Article III courts and continuances on the ongoing military commissions.
Category three is made up of detainees who can't be released and can't be tried. The thought is to create a panel, which could turn into a national security court, to handle these future highest-value detainees to determine prospective policy since terrorists like Al Qaeda chief Usama bin Laden will continue to be caught.
As for Al-Marri's whose case is before the Supreme Court, the intent is to try to make sure the detainee is tried according to the same rules as others who will be subject to the new orders.
Al-Marri was arrested in Peoria, Ill., a couple of months after the Sept. 11 attacks and is accused of being an al Qaeda operative sent to the United States on Sept. 10, 2001, to take part in another attack.
In 2003, President Bush signed an executive order labeling Al-Marri an "enemy combatant" and removing him from civilian custody. The order made the Defense Department responsible for Al-Marri who has been kept in isolation at the Navy brig in Charleston, S.C. His lawyers argue that the president has no "inherent authority" to hold him without charge for an unlimited time.
Separately, the administration is expected to issue a reversal of a ban on
federal funding for non-governmental organizations working outside the U.S. that offer abortions or abortion counseling.
Obama will sign the executive order on the 36th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in all 50 states.
FOX News' Jim Angle, Major Garrett, Chad Pergram, Lee Ross and Mike Levine contributed to this report.