Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Fight over the Bush Administrations' Terror Policies

With the high-stakes speeches this morning from President Barack Obama and former Vice President Dick Cheney (see above and below), the United States is beginning to get what Obama has long said he wanted to avoid: rehashing the past. Today, Cheney's speech tried to defend the actions taken during his time in office, saying they protected Americans from further attack, and Obama gave a blistering attack on those actions, noting that traditionally Americans closed down torture chambers around the world.

Both views will likely be analyzed and spun ad nauseum in the next couple weeks. But it's really just a continuation of a long-running battle, super-charged by critics from the Right who believe the Obama administration has weakened our anti-terror protections and critics from the Left who believe Obama has backtracked on pledges to end inhumane practices.

Some of those latter people recently met with President Obama to talk about his plans for tribunals for alleged terrorists and other actions that have alarmed human rights groups, Newsweek's Michael Isikoff reports. Anthony Romero, head of the American Civil Liberties Union, left the meeting feeling impressed with the president's command of the issues but disappointed in his policy decisions. Romero has been a vocal proponent of prosecuting leading figures in the Bush administration over torture allegations, as he argued in his recent Commonwealth Club discussion.

Another participant in the meeting, Vincent Warren (photo at right), executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, is reported by RebelReports as having commented, "I came out of the meeting deeply disappointed in the direction that the administration is taking ... I don’t see meaningful differences between these detention policies and those erected by President Bush."

Whether that comment will cheer conservative critics of Obama is unclear, but people on all sides of this issue can hear more from Warren when he speaks at The Commonwealth Club tonight. The title of his speech couldn't be more clear: "Neutralizing the Bush Legacy."


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