Obama’s mixed signals on terror policy

11Mar09

obama2originally published: 6th March 2009

Lawyers with the Obama administration are working to prevent full judicial review of one of the most controversial aspects of President Bush’s war on terror – his claim of authority to hold US citizens and legal residents in indefinite military detention without charge as enemy combatants.

On Friday, the Supreme Court justices will meet to consider a motion by the Obama administration to dismiss a petition that raises the issue. On the same day, Justice Department lawyers will urge a federal judge in San Francisco to throw out a civil lawsuit that seeks judicial scrutiny of the work of John Yoo, a former Bush administration adviser who helped draft memos that laid the legal groundwork for President Bush’s counterterrorism approach.

In recent weeks, President Obama has rejected some Bush policies in the war on terror while embracing others. His position on executive power in antiterror efforts remain ill-defined.

Mr. Obama seized the antiterror agenda on his second day in office, ordering closure of the detention camp at Guantánamo and banning the use of torture by US interrogators. But the administration has also embraced many of the Bush administration’s policies – including reliance on the state secrets privilege and a denial of habeas corpus rights to detainees in Afghanistan who were captured in a different country and transported to a US military prison in Afghanistan for indefinite detention.

The recent developments come amid mounting calls in Congress for a truth commission to investigate the Bush administration’s antiterrorism policies and practices.

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