Rollback Watch

By Dan Froomkin
1:17 PM ET, 01/26/2009

With a blistering critique of the Bush era, Obama this morning announced his plans to overhaul environmental policy and overturn some key Bush decisions.

"The days of Washington dragging its heels are over," Obama said. "My administration will not deny facts; we will be guided by them. We cannot afford to pass the buck or push the burden onto the states."

William Branigin, Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson have the details on washingtonpost.com.

Matthew B. Stannard writes in the San Francisco Chronicle that "in the brief time he's been in the White House, analysts say, Obama has issued a series of orders, statements and speeches that convey a single message to America and the world: The Bush administration is over."

Rob Stein and Michael Shear write in Saturday's Washington Post: "President Obama yesterday lifted a ban on U.S. funding for international health groups that perform abortions, promote legalizing the procedure or provide counseling about terminating pregnancies.

"Obama issued a memorandum rescinding the Mexico City Policy, also known as the 'global gag rule,' which President Ronald Reagan originally instituted in 1984, President Bill Clinton reversed in 1993 and President George W. Bush revived in 2001.

"The memorandum revokes Bush's order, calling the limitations on funding 'excessively broad' and adding that 'they have undermined efforts to promote safe and effective voluntary family programs in foreign nations.' In an accompanying statement, Obama said he would also work with Congress to restore U.S. funding support for the United Nations Population Fund 'to reduce poverty, improve the health of women and children, prevent HIV/AIDS and provide family planning assistance to women in 154 countries.'"

The New Yorker's Jane Mayer talks to White House Counsel Greg Craig about Obama's executive orders last week banning torture and ordering the closure of Guantanamo within a year

"He explained that Obama's bold legal moves were the result of a 'painstaking' process that started in Iowa, before the first presidential caucus. It was there that then-candidate Obama met with a handful of former high-ranking military officers who opposed the Bush Administration's legalization of abusive interrogations. . . .

"Top C.I.A. officials have argued for years that so-called 'enhanced' interrogation techniques have yielded life-saving intelligence breakthroughs."

But apparently Obama's advisers found their arguments lacking. "During the transition period, unknown to the public, Obama's legal, intelligence, and national-security advisers visited Langley for two long sessions with current and former intelligence-community members. They debated whether a ban on brutal interrogation practices would hurt their ability to gather intelligence, and the advisers asked the intelligence veterans to prepare a cost-benefit analysis. The conclusions may surprise defenders of harsh interrogation tactics. 'There was unanimity among Obama's expert advisers,' Craig said, 'that to change the practices would not in any material way affect the collection of intelligence.'"

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