WASHINGTON — The Trump White House appears to have backed off for now on its consideration of reopening overseas "black site" prisons, where the CIA once tortured terrorism suspects, after a leaked draft executive order prompted bipartisan pushback from Congress and Cabinet officials.
On Thursday, the White House circulated among National Security Council staff members a revised version of the draft order on detainees that deleted language contemplating a revival of the CIA prisons, the New York Times reported, speaking to several officials familiar with its contents.
The draft order retains other parts of the original that focus on making greater use of the military's Guantanamo Bay prison, which the Obama administration had tried to close. Those sections, reflecting repeated vows from President Donald Trump, include a call to bring newly captured terrorism detainees there and to freeze plans for any more transfers.
After news outlets reported details of the original draft on Jan. 25, lawmakers erupted in outrage, and both the defense secretary, Jim Mattis, and the CIA director, Mike Pompeo, disavowed any prior knowledge of the contemplated order.
Elisa Massimino, president of Human Rights First, who had been among those who criticized the original draft, praised the revisions.
"It sounds like a smart reaction to the reaction to the leaked draft," she said. "Transparency is a good corrective to overreach, and it provides the opportunity for more careful consideration of the broader implications of an order like this."
In addition to the change on CIA prisons, the revised draft, unlike the original, would not revive a 2007 executive order issued by President George W. Bush, and later rescinded by President Barack Obama, that laid out a limited understanding of which torture techniques count as war crimes under the Geneva Conventions.
The revised draft would also not revoke two executive orders governing detainees that Obama issued in January 2009, as the original would have. The first bars the CIA from operating prisons and requires all interrogators to adhere to techniques approved in the Army Field Manual. The other was Obama's ill-fated directive to close the Guantanamo prison within a year.