Obama Moves Swiftly To Close Gitmo

Obama signs order to close Gitmo

hide captionPresident Barack Obama signs an executive order to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay Cuba in the Oval Office at the White House.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Barack Obama is expected to issue an executive order today to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay within a year. The decision represents a critical break from Bush administration policies.

James Yee, a former Muslim chaplain at the facility, discusses the president's swift move and critics who say Guantanamo is a necessary tool in the war against terror.

Obama Orders Guantanamo Bay Prison Closure

On Day 2 of his presidency, Barack Obama continued to unravel the tapestry of policies woven by former President George W. Bush over the past eight years.

Tackling initiatives that can be reversed with the stroke of a presidential pen, Obama turned his attention Thursday to national security matters, signing executive orders designed to close Guantanamo Bay prison within a year, prohibit extreme interrogation practices and revisit military tribunals for suspected terrorists.

Shuttering the detention facility is intended to show that U.S. foreign policy is in metamorphosis, Obama said.

"The message that we are sending around the world is that the United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism" but will do so "in a manner consistent with our values and our ideals," he said while signing the orders.

"We are not, as I said at our inauguration, going to continue with a false choice between our safety and our ideals," he said.

Obama also planned a closed-door session Thursday with economic advisers on the nation's struggling economy.

Later Thursday, Obama planned to visit the State Department for a meeting with his new secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and top-tier national security advisers to discuss new visions and revisions of Bush administration policies in an effort to rehabilitate U.S. standing in the world.

Vice President Joe Biden was invited to the State Department meeting as well. Obama and Clinton were expected to speak to the department staff afterward.

"I want you to give me the best advice you can. I want you to understand that there is nothing I welcome more than a good debate and the kind of dialogue that will make us better," Clinton told State Department staffers at a meeting earlier Thursday.

At some point during the day, the new president was expected to appoint a special Mideast envoy — most likely George Mitchell, chairman of the Walt Disney Co. and former Senate Democratic leader — to tackle the intractable task of ending regional conflict.

Mitchell, 75, acted in a similar role during the Clinton administration, spearheading an international study of the Middle East conflict. He was in charge of overseeing other troublesome diplomatic tasks, such as mediating talks that resulted in the Northern Ireland peace agreement. He also was chairman of a committee that examined the use of steroids in professional baseball.

The administration also was paying attention to action on Capitol Hill. The Senate Finance Committee voted 18-5 Thursday to recommend the confirmation of Timothy Geithner to the full chamber, one day after Geithner apologized to the committee for what he called "careless mistakes" in failing to pay $34,000 in taxes while working for the International Monetary Fund.

Meanwhile, retired Adm. Dennis Blair, Obama's pick to be the nation's top intelligence officer, said at his confirmation hearing that the nation needed a single standard of treatment for detainees.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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