New Strategy in War on Terror? Don’t Hold Your Breath

Buried on page A19 of yesterday’s New York Times was what should have been Charlie Savage’s front-page story. In “Obama’s War on Terror May Resemble Bush’s in Some Areas,” Savage highlights several troubling comparisons between the two administrations. While acknowledging that just after the inauguration, “Mr. Obama thrilled civil liberties groups when he issued executive orders promising less secrecy, restricting C.I.A. interrogators to Army Field Manual techniques, shuttering the agency’s secret prisons, ordering the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, closed within a year and halting military commission trials,” Savage quickly notes “things have become murkier.”

Here are a few clips:

  • “…Obama nominees endorsed continuing the C.I.A.’s program of transferring prisoners to other countries without legal rights, and indefinitely detaining terrorism suspects without trials even if they were arrested far from a war zone…”
  • “…The administration has also embraced the Bush legal team’s arguments that a lawsuit by former C.I.A. detainees should be shut down based on the “state secrets” doctrine. It has also left the door open to resuming military commission trials…”
  • “…During her confirmation hearing last week, Elena Kagan, the nominee for solicitor general, said that someone suspected of helping finance Al Qaeda should be subject to battlefield law — indefinite detention without a trial — even if he were captured in a place like the Philippines rather than in a physical battle zone…”
  • “…Moreover, the nominee for C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, opened a loophole in Mr. Obama’s interrogation restrictions. At his hearing, Mr. Panetta said that if the approved techniques were ‘not sufficient’ to get a detainee to divulge details he was suspected of knowing about an imminent attack, he would ask for ‘additional authority…’”

This is change?

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