Skip Navigation

Obama Administration Begins New Era in “War on Terror”

President’s orders touch on Guantánamo, torture, secrecy, and a Brennan Center case before the Supreme Court.

January 24, 2009

For Immediate Release:

Contact: Susan Lehman, (212) 998–6318
Jeanine Plant-Chirlin, (212) 998–6289 or (646) 265–7721

President’s Orders Touch on Guantánamo, Torture, Secrecy, and a Brennan Center Case Before the Supreme Court

Washington D.C. – The Obama Administration’s first executive orders—on detention, torture and executive secrecy—signal a sharp departure from Bush-era policies. With a timeline in place to close Guantánamo’s prison, an executive memo to review the case of Brennan Center client Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, and Obama’s promise to be the most transparent presidency in U.S. history, this is truly a new era for our nation’s liberty and national security.

pull“President Obama’s executive orders relating to the closing of Guanánamo Bay, the treatment of detainees, and a presumption of transparency signal a dramatic and welcome change in executive policy,” notes Emily Berman, counsel and Katz Fellow at the Liberty & National Security Project at the Brennan Center for Justice. “These orders indicate a renewed commitment to the rule of law, respect for individual rights, and recognition of the democratic principle of open government. While we must remain vigilant to ensure that the new administration lives up to the promise of these early statements, they are a large step in exactly the right direction.”

The Brennan Center’s stable of experts can make sense of this new chapter in American counter-terror policy. This week, the Brennan Center filed a brief in the case of Al-Marri v Spagone, urging the Supreme Court to repudiate the Bush Administration’s extraordinary theory that the governement can seize and detain citizens and lawful aliens from US soil without a criminal trial. Brennan Center’s Justice Program Director Aziz Huq offers a context for understanding both this Constitutional lapse in justice and the need to restore our checks and balances.

Finally, Brennan Center Senior Counsel Frederick A.O. Schwarz, Jr. has urged the President and Congress to establish an indpendent, bi-partisan truth commission to investigate recent U.S. counter-terrorism policies; Mr. Schwarz can address questions about secrecy, democracy and the importance of full accounting in the new era of transparent, accountable government.

For additional comment or to schedule an interview with Aziz Huq, contact Susan Lehman, Communications Director, at or (212) 998–6318.