Monday, October 27, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 30, The Dark Side: Torture, Detention, Surveillance, Drones & Secrecy in the Bush/Obama Era (Con't)

I don’t think it’s even fair to call it Bush Lite. It’s Bush. It’s really, really hard to find a difference that’s meaningful and not atmospheric. You see a lot of straining on things trying to make things look repackaged, but they’re really not that different.

— James Jay Carafano, Heritage-foundation security expert

My claim was never that the Obama administration copied or merely tweaked all of the Bush administration policies, but rather... copied most of the Bush counterterrorism program as it stood in January 2009, expanded some of it, and narrowed a bit.... [There are] differences in the rhetorical and justificatory approaches between the two administrations... The continuity of the late Bush and early Obama eras is a qualitative judgment. And that qualitative judgment is informed by the baseline of expectations. President Obama in his 2008 campaign led everyone to believe that he would dramatically change the Bush counterterrorism policies. “Bush’s ‘War’ on Terror Comes to a Sudden End” was the headline in the Washington Post on January 23, 2009, capturing conventional wisdom at the dawn of the new administration. Indeed, people inside the administration believed this as well, and tried hard, especially in the first year, to bring dramatic change on such issues as state secrets, military detention, military commissions, closing GTMO, and more. But dramatic change did not come on these issues. It did not come not because the Obama officials were hypocrites. They were not. Rather, the continuity was driven by a number of factors described in chapter 2 of my book, including the responsibilities and inside information of the presidency, the persistence in outlook of the national security bureaucracy, the alterations to (and legitimation of) Bush administration policies by Congress and courts and related actors, and congressional pushback on Obama initiatives like closing GTMO and civilian trials. We cannot put a number on the extent to which Obama continued Bush – was it 95%?; 85%?; 75%? But very few would have predicted in January 2009 that four years later a secretive Obama administration would be trying the 9/11 conspirators in military commissions; detaining 160 or so people in military detention in GTMO; defending its legal right to do both, and to deny habeas corpus in Afghanistan, in federal court; asserting state secrets doctrine in court on its own authority; pursuing unprecedented prosecutions against government leakers; urging re-authorization (and in some senses expansion) of late Bush-era surveillance policies; and ramping up drone attacks a great deal in a much-expanded global covert war that invite charges of war crimes and related illegalities from U.N. and other international and foreign officials, and NGOs. These are some of the broad-based policy continuities – continuities embedded, importantly, in a presidential war approach to the problem of Islamist terrorism that many hoped Obama would end – that lead most people to think there was large continuity between the Obama and Bush administrations.

—Jack Goldsmith, head of the Office of Legal Council, 2003 - 2004 (2012)
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

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