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5 Ways President Obama Has Doubled Down on Bush's Most Tragic Mistakes

Obama has kept the U.S. on a permanent war footing, from drone strikes and proxy detentions to warrantless wiretapping and the continued operation of Guantanamo.

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4. Guantanamo

Although the continued operation of the Guantanamo Bay camp is hardly the sole fault of President Obama, it does symbolize the abject failure to reject the Bush administration's approach to terrorism.

While it's important to note that the Republican Party has blocked Obama's desire to close Guantanamo, he has not expended political capital on closing the prison and has signed bills that restrict his ability to do so. The most recent bill concerning Guantanamo Bay crossed his desk at the beginning of the year.

Despite threatening to veto the bill because it restricted the executive branch's authority, Obama signed it, and curtailed his own ability to move ahead on closing the infamous camp, where people have languished without charge for years on end. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, where the Guantanamo provisions are included, restricts “the transfer of detainees into the United States for any purpose, including trials in federal court. It also requires the defense secretary to meet rigorous conditions before any detainee can be returned to his own country or resettled in a third country,” according to the Washington Post.

Human rights activists blasted the move. “Indefinite detention without trial at Guantanamo is illegal, unsustainable and against U.S. national security interests, and it needs to end,” Human Rights Watch's Andrea Prasow told the Post. “The administration should not continue to just blame Congress. President Obama should follow through on his earlier commitments and make the effort to overcome the transfer restrictions.”

5. Indefinite Detention

This issue, over all the others, says loud and clear that the Obama administration is preparing for an endless war on terror.

Domestically, indefinite detention reared its ugly head back in December 2011, when President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, a defense funding bill. Included in the bill was a provision allowing for indefinite military detention without charge or trial. Despite concerns raised by civil liberties activists, Obama signed the bill into law, although an executive signing statement vowed that the president would “not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens.”

That has not allayed the concerns of civil liberties groups. The American Civil Liberties Union states: “The NDAA’s dangerous detention provisions would authorize the president — and all future presidents — to order the military to pick up and indefinitely imprison people captured anywhere in the world, far from any battlefield....Under the Bush administration, similar claims of worldwide detention authority were used to hold even a U.S. citizen detained on U.S. soil in military custody, and many in Congress now assert that the NDAA should be used in the same way again.”

While no American citizens have been detained under the law yet, indefinite detention has been a hallmark of the war in Afghanistan. Thousands of detainees have remained in Bagram Air Field, including non-Afghan detainees. Picked up on the battlefield in Afghanistan, they have been held for years without charge or trial.

“Since 2002, the U.S. government has detained indefinitely thousands of people there in harsh conditions and without charge, without access to lawyers, without access to courts, and without a meaningful opportunity to challenge their detention,” the ACLU notes.

So as the Obama administration fills out its cabinet posts and prepares for another four years, the permanent war on terror will stay with us. From drones to proxy detentions to indefinite detention, the constitutional lawyer in the Oval Office has institutionalized and expanded some of the worst hallmarks of the lawless Bush era.

Alex Kane is AlterNet's New York-based World editor, and an assistant editor for Mondoweiss. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

 
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