On his European trip, Obama repeatedly stressed the difference in his policies from those of his predecessor, expressing his regret for Bush policies. At a town hall meting in Strasbourg, France, Obama told the audience: "We've allowed our alliance to drift. I know that there have been honest disagreements over policy, but we also know that there's something more that has crept into our relationship. So I've come to Europe this week to renew our partnership, one in which America listens and learns from our friends and allies."
In his first major step in office, Obama signed an executive order closing down the detainee center at the Guantanamo Bay military facility within a year, and established new guidelines on interrogation methods and the treatment of detainees. In another order signed on the same day, Obama mandated all U.S. interrogators in all agencies to adhere to rules in the Army Field Manual, and the president also called for the shut down of CIA detention centers around the world.
The orders call for some detainees to be transferred to U.S. prisons, and others to be transferred overseas. The move marked a sharp departure from Bush-era policies and even provoked criticism from Cheney. But Obama, who reiterated during his campaign the idea that the U.S. does not torture -- called Gitmo a "sad chapter in American history" -- and pledged to shutter it as soon as he could, said the country will deal with terrorism "in a manner that is consistent with our values and our ideals."
The Pentagon will turn over 44 photos to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), showing abuse of prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq. The ACLU took the matter to court when the Bush administration said releasing the photos would violate U.S. obligations toward detainees and could prompt outrage and possibly even attacks against the U.S. But the courts disagreed. The Obama administration could have taken the case to the Supreme Court, but instead decided to hand over the pictures. Since the ACLU filed the lawsuit, they will be the first recipients of the photos.
The Pentagon lifted the controversial ban on the photographing of flag-draped caskets of America's war dead, reversing the policy that was implemented by George Bush in 2001. Critics say the ban hid the human cost of war and soon after taking over the White House, Obama asked Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to review its impact on military families. Under the new rules, families will decide whether to grant media access to caskets of the dead and the military will suggest guidelines for how much coverage to allow. In rescinding the Bush-era policy on Feb. 26, Gates said he was "never comfortable" with the ban to begin with.