There is a growing chorus of voices who fear that President Obama’s policies in the “war on terror” are more symbolic than substantial. He has announced the closing of the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, directed CIA interrogators to abide by the Army Field Manual, and ordered the closing of secret CIA prisons. (Being “secret” prisons run by the CIA, one wonders how that will take place!) And recently, Obama said that Bush-era detainees will no longer be labeled “enemy combatants.” Despite the renaming, the legal status of these detainees has largely remained the same.
One piece of evidence suggesting that these are still symbolic gestures is the legal brief submitted by the Obama administration last Friday. In it, the Obama Department of Justice leaves almost completely intact the Bush DOJ’s argument for presidential authority to order indefinite detention.
Last year, then-Senator Obama voted to grant retroactive immunity to telecom companies who broke the law by assisting Bush in spying on Americans. At the time, I feared that when push came to shove, Obama would be unable to resist the increased power that the Bush presidency had grabbed for itself.
Say it ain’t so, Barack! Or better, prove it ain’t so!