Why surveillance laws haven’t changed under Obama
November 4, 2015
Obama’s 'lawyer-ly' administration, unlike Bush’s, created legal structure around previous laws, says Charlie Savage
President Obama has been a major disappointment to many civil liberties advocates. They expected his election would mean an end to policies launched during George W. Bush's war on terror. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney's assertions of presidential power and executive privilege in the name of national security justified many of those policies. They include warrantless phone and Internet surveillance, military tribunals, drone strikes and indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay. But aside from ending torture, the President Obama did NOT significantly change the course set by Bush and Cheney. As Edward Snowden proved, the American government continued to collect the phone records of its citizens under Obama. But here's what did change: the Obama administration did not justify its actions by claiming that a President during wartime has the right to act like a King and do whatever necessary to protect his people. Instead, the Obama team relied on sophisticated legal arguments to continue Bush-era policies with only slight changes. Don't forget that Obama is a lawyer while Bush and Cheney were CEOs. And the role of lawyers in shaping national security policy helps explain how a man who campaigned by promising to improve privacy protections took a path that deeply troubles many Americans. All this is the subject of a new book called "Power Wars: Inside Obama's post 9/11 Presidency" by New York Times Washington correspondent Charlie Savage. I asked him whether it's fair to say Obama broke a campaign promise.