Obama notches a 60 on the Change-o-Meter.

Obama notches a 60 on the Change-o-Meter.

Obama notches a 60 on the Change-o-Meter.

Keeping score for the Obama administration.
Jan. 22 2009 6:12 PM

The Change-o-Meter

As promised, Guantanamo and CIA prisons will close.

Chris Wilson chatted live with readers about the Change-o-Meter. Read the transcript.

For the second day in a row, President Obama is pursuing the political equivalent of the serenity prayer: He's changing what he can. As expected, Obama signed executive orders Thursday shutting down the Guantanamo Bay detention facilities and the CIA's overseas prisons, as well as limiting the CIA to interrogation techniques permitted in the Army Field Manual, which precludes methods that have been previously used on terrorism suspects. While the interrogation edict may be fungible, the move is an early fulfillment of a major campaign promise. That and several other policy changes net a score of 60 on the Change-o-Meter.

There's no arguing with the significance of closing Guantanamo, which for years has been the most visible reminder of the Bush administration's murky legal strategy for enemy combatants. Obama's executive order sets a limit of one year for the closure of the facility. A separate order convenes a task force, involving a good chunk of his Cabinet, to review detention options.

It's worth noting, however, that any change in the actual physical and legal conditions of enemy combatants is pending. As the Washington Independent's Daphne Eviatar pointed out, it wouldn't be too difficult for the president to change course on the CIA call, particularly if the United States were to capture some especially dangerous or knowledgeable terrorist.

While Obama's pick for director of national intelligence, retired Adm. Dennis Blair, avoided explicitly describing water-boarding as torture as attorney general nominee Eric Holder did, Blair did state that "there will be no water-boarding on my watch."* While that's reassuring for those suspicious of these loopholes, higher scores on our meter are reserved for policies that pack more heat and permanence than an executive order.

In other news, Obama ordered federal agencies to be more forthcoming on Freedom of Information requests and other transparency measures, a welcome move for journalists and other people who like government documents. Meanwhile, the technological wizardry of his campaign is hitting a few snags during the move to the White House, a transition one spokesman described as like "going from an Xbox to an Atari." Updates to the revamped White House Web site are still a bit sluggish as well, and aides are reportedly still getting their e-mail up and running. Nonetheless, one resident of 1600 Pennsylvania won't go without his inbox; in a major victory worthy of a nudge on the Change-o-Meter, Obama will get to keep his BlackBerry.

There's a lot to cover, so we want to hear your thoughts on what the Change-o-Meter should be taking into account. No detail is too small or wonky. E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.

Correction, Jan. 23, 2009: This article originally identified Blair as Obama's choice to head the CIA. Blair is nominated for director of national intelligence. (Return  to the corrected sentence.)