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Obama moves to close Guantanamo within a year

January 22, 2009 | 12:13 pm

US President Barack Obama puts his pen away after signing an executive order to close the

When President Obama today signed executive orders to create a task force to study how to close  Guantanamo Bay Prison within one year, he was delivering on an oft-repeated campaign pledge to make sure U.S. foreign policy conformed to U.S. values. With reporters looking on and cameras clicking, Obama said:

"This is me following through on not just a commitment I made during the campaign, but I think 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."

As for his campaign pledge to ban torture, Obama also signed a directive to ensure that the techniques in the Army Field Manual -- which prohibit waterboarding -- will be the rule for all intelligence and law enforcement services.

But critics worry that the moves will signal to terrorists a lack of U.S. resolve. Republican Sen. Lamar Smith of Texas argues that because many countries have been unwilling to take any of the released detainees, "closing Guantanamo Bay poses significant national security concerns to the American people."

For its part, the Obama administration believes that its renewed diplomatic outreach will lead to relocations for the detainees judged too dangerous to release. And the new president, signing the four Guantanamo directives with a left-handed flourish, made it clear that he intends to pursue the fight against terrorism vigorously -- just with different weapons. He said:

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

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo: President Obama after signing an executive order in the Oval Office to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Credit: Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images

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