Jump to content

Obama and Bush: Together on Terror Law


Recommended Posts


The ACLU says the administration has 'institutionalized' some of the former president's most controversial policies. For this we should be thankful.

When President Obama took office promising to uphold the rule of law and ensure that our counterterrorism policies were consistent with our Constitution and core principles, his most devoted supporters took that to mean he would reverse a host of the Bush administration's legal stances and counterterrorism practices. That has not been the case.

Mr. Obama has continued or allowed for preventive detentions, military commissions, renditions, aggressive financial data and intelligence collection, renewal of provisions of the Patriot Act, and the killing of al Qaeda operatives on the battlefield. Yes, the Obama administration rejected certain first-term Bush administration practices—like aggressive interrogation methods—but there has been fundamental continuity on most issues.

Most recently, Mr. Obama has defended in Europe the U.S. Treasury's once-controversial Terrorist Finance Tracking Program, requested additional authorities for the FBI to obtain electronic data via national security letters, and is relying more heavily on targeted, lethal operations in Afghanistan.

The fact that these practices began under the Bush administration does not mean that Mr. Obama has abandoned his pledge to restore the rule of law, despite accusations to the contrary. The rule of law is not a static set of procedures. Instead, in the national security context, it is the appropriate and constitutional legal framework that balances the safety of society with the rights of individuals.

Our national debate on the meaning of the rule of law is stuck in a false dichotomy—between a caricature of past policies that "abandoned the rule of law" and practices that adhere to criminal legal procedures. Instead, we should ask ourselves what kind of rule of law respects American principles while keeping Americans safe from today's national security threats.

Late last month the American Civil Liberties Union released a report decrying the Obama administration for "repudiat[ing] some of the Bush administration's most egregious national security policies but . . . institutionalizing others permanently into law, thereby creating a troubling 'new normal.'" Let's hope they're right. And let's hope the Obama administration has the courage to defend this "new normal" publicly as consistent with the rule of law.

Mr. Zarate, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is the former deputy National Security Advisor for Combating Terrorism.


I have a feeling that getting the PDB everyday has opened Obamas eyes.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • 1708998271
  • Create New...