Posted by Abdul Alim
Guardian: Thomas Aquinas, Augustine and John Brennan – two saints and a counter-terrorism adviser – may give the counsel a president feels he needs before adding another al-Qaida suspect to his kill list. But whatever else these authorities do, they do not constitute due process – and Barack Obama‘s administration knows it. It is doing everything it can to avoid scrutiny. It is refusing to publish its standards for putting people on terrorist or assassination lists. What are the target limits? When is a last resort truly a last resort, particularly in areas well back from recognised battlefields? And who is providing independent oversight? Professor Obama, the constitutional lawyer who campaigned against the Iraq war and the Bush administration’s elastic definitions of torture, would have had a field day cross-examining in court his older and wiser self as president – a man who shuffles through candidates for summary execution by drone strike on a pile of baseball cards. Or would he?
Aaron David Miller, a Middle East adviser to both Republican and Democrat administrations, does not think so. He wrote that there were no substantive differences between Mr Obama and Mitt Romney on foreign policy, other than the president’s having a harsher view of Binyamin Netanyahu and a less hawkish one on Vladimir Putin. The rhetoric may have gone out of the war on terror, but as far as the actions themselves go, Mr Obama was, in Miller’s view,George W Bush on steroids. This may be harsh, but it is not ill-informed.
From the very first days of his presidency, Mr Obama’s training as a lawyer was put to use not in abolishing the worst practices of the Bush era, but in giving himself the wriggle room to preserve and in some cases expand them. Thus the three major policies of the Bush war on terror – rendition, military commissions and indefinite detention – continue to this day. But Mr Obama has also presided over a massive expansion of secret surveillance of American citizens by the National Security Agency. There is a ferocious crackdown on whistleblowers. He has made more government documents classified than any previous president. And he has become a true believer in drones.