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Bush Law Continued

By David Cole

March 18, 2009

By David Cole

This article appeared in the April 6, 2009 edition of The Nation.
March 18, 2009
Most of us have a favorite image from the inauguration of President Obama. Mine shows soldiers at Guantánamo Bay Naval Base replacing George W. Bush's picture with a portrait of the new president. A day later, Obama ordered that Guantánamo be closed within a year, signaling that his administration would take a stance on terrorism very different from his predecessor's. Since then, however, he has taken several actions suggesting that the differences may be less marked than that first day implied. Certainly there have been significant improvements in US policy, particularly Washington's approach to international law. But disturbingly, the Obama administration has continued the Bush administration's attempts to shield illegal exercises of executive authority from judicial review.

The Obama administration's ambivalent approach was perhaps most evident in its March 13 announcement that it was abandoning the Bush label of "enemy combatant" for those held at Guantánamo. But at the same time, in a legal brief filed in a Guantánamo detention case, the administration advanced a new definition of who may be detained--which was immediately criticized by human rights groups as differing only marginally from that used by President Bush.

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This is not encouraging. Tom


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