Brennan And The War On Terror

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, gave a speech at Harvard Law School entitled “Strengthening our Security by Adhering to our Values and Laws.” According to Marty Lederman, “it is the most comprehensive single statement of the Obama Administration’s policies and practices with respect to al Qaeda and other terrorist threats.”

Many supporters of the previous administration, including Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Yoo, would have us believe the Obama administration is continuing policies from the Bush administration. They perceive this continuation as a vindication of their policy choices. Their understandable desire for vindication makes suspect their claims of continuation. In many crucial areas, these claims are false.

Regarding Guantánamo Bay, Brennan notes a significant departure from the Bush administration:

The prison at Guantánamo Bay undermines our national security, and our nation will be more secure the day when that prison is finally and responsibly closed.  For all of the reasons mentioned above, we will not send more individuals to the prison at Guantánamo.

Regarding torture:

Consistent with our laws and our values, the President unequivocally banned torture and other abusive interrogation techniques, rejecting the claim that these are effective means of interrogation.

On using the courts:

It’s also been suggested that prosecuting terrorists in our federal courts somehow impedes the collection of intelligence.  A long record of experience, however, proves otherwise.

Our federal courts are time-tested, have unquestioned legitimacy, and, at least for the foreseeable future, are capable of producing a more predictable and sustainable result than military commissions.

In short, our Article III courts are not only our single most effective tool for prosecuting, convicting, and sentencing suspected terrorists—they are a proven tool for gathering intelligence and preventing attacks.

On issuing Miranda warnings:

Claims that Miranda warnings undermine intelligence collection ignore decades of experience to the contrary.

As Juliette Kayyem wrote:

It has simply not been more of the same. The CIA’s “black sites”–secret prisons in other countries–are closed.  Enhanced interrogation is outlawed.  The laws of war have been restored.  Guantanamo remains open not because Obama wants it that way, but because Congress has barred the expenditure of funds to bring its prisoners to the United States for trial.

There has been a significant departure from the Bush administration policies in another notable area: the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Bush famously said: “You know, I just don’t spend that much time on [bin Laden] … to be honest with you.” Least we forget, it was Bush who disbanded the CIA unit, known as Alec Station, whose mission was to hunt down bin Laden.

It was the Obama administration that put forward the effort to find bin Laden. Now the members of the Bush administration are engaged in a pathetic attempt to diminish Obama’s success by trying to claim some of the credit.

H/T: Opinio Juris.

73 thoughts on “Brennan And The War On Terror”

  1. I knew when I voted for Obama that there wasn’t much “there” there. I didn’t project my progressive fantasies on his fairly empty, milquetoast shell. I don’t feel particularly abandoned, but in contrast, I’m understanding just how good a politician Bill Clinton was.

    Anyway – back to my point about words vs. deeds in the domestic political sphere. No more black site prisons, true, just a larger prison on the US Bagram airbase in Afghanistan:

    Yep. Quite the “drawdown” in Afghanistan – we’re building a bigger, better $25 to $100 million dollar “white site” prison to house GWOT prisoners not just from Afghanistan, but Guantanamo-style, from around the world, potentially including US citizens.

  2. Geeze….and I wonder why so many MEN are unhappy with Obama….and when MEN are unhappy…they tend to look around…..for something better

  3. Don’t take Tom as a republican at all. He is not advocating for republican candidates. He gives an accurate portrait of Obama’s shortcomings which I already agreed with.

  4. Tom,

    You best be careful….someone might mistake you for a GOP operative….

    I will say that if Obama had not abandoned his base he would be in a much better position presently…Since he did he will suffer the election consequences…George the First did that and he only served one term…Bill Clinton for all of his own personal issues never forgot the people that put him into office….

    I read the links and still do not understand what he is attempting to accomplish…I think it is too late for some of the “swing” voter that put him in office to realign them…I may be wrong….But, I do not think so….

  5. tomdarch, I agree. Obama made the choice to go after independents and let the progressive base down. The independents are not with him and the base might not turn out. So now the administration is making some of the right moves but a lot depends on Europe. Perry will probably scare the base into voting but Romney not so much.

  6. Why didn’t they prosecute the previous administration? Pure political calculus. They knew that if they prosecuted the President, Vice President and several other White House officials that it would be used as a huge political cudgle to beat the entire Democratic party. Despite the unambiguous crimes that were committed, the ever disingenuous Republicans would have been out tearfully decrying the “partisan” attack on those “who honorably protected America from terrorism!” It would have been political suicide for the Democratic party.

    That said, sometimes one needs to put their nation ahead of partisan interests.

    Also speaking of domestic politics… The current political news is that the president’s progressive base is disenchanted with his centrist approach…. These words from Brennan seem like appropriately timed political salve – I doubt that there will be much action to match them. If nothing else, it just proves that the Obama administration really does know better, as they carry on doing what they’re doing. (or fail to do what they know they should.)

  7. Blouise,

    “I’m not entirely convinced that Obama is trying to protect Bush/Cheney … I strongly suspect he is protecting the individuals within the CIA who actually carried out the torture.”

    “Somewhere, at some time, the question “Why is he protecting them?” will be answered.”

    It seems to me that Obama is protecting the expansion of executive powers.

  8. James….

    That is an interesting irony…..Just like the AG from NY not willing to sign off on the criminal aspect of the Financial Markets….So what did they do….well….they have 49 AGs on board so they created a vacancy for the one that was creating the most noise….

    They may not escape civil liability…but they will escape criminal prosecution….the civil liability is dischargeable in bankruptcy but not Fraud…so even if they agree to pay it they can escape liability…..I wonder why this option was not made available to Bernie Madoff….

  9. AY, I support THE Office of the President.

    The name of the current occupant, by all accounts, is O’ccomplice.

    No perp-walks, no jobs make Homer something-something….

  10. I am still trying to figure out How closing the base in Cuba will somehow or another help national security….Did I miss something….Do Cuban come here and plant Jalapenos…or something….

    If they think just closing the base in Cuba will help….they better hope more details are not released from Libya describing the various torture chambers that were allowed….or Germany….or any other place…..maybe…there are more that have not been disclosed yet….as I see it…..more will be revealed….

  11. OHHHHHHH…..You all don’t sound like you are supporting the Office of the current President…..That means that you all are probably GOP Operatives…..


  12. Gene, what is your theory as to why 50 U.S. Attorneys are able to ignore what Vermont has done? How is such a unanimously blind eye turned toward this, and the disappearance of trillions of dollars? How can such a disconnect occur in an information age?

    Or, as a dear friend asked me just yesterday, how can the greatest country on earth be brought to its knees internally and not one arrest has been made, nor one grand jury sat?

    “The media” are not responsible for upholding the law. All I see is extreme cowardice, and I would really like to know why.

  13. Too little. Too late.

    Both Bush, Cheney, Yoo and Bybee (among others) ought to all be in prison by now.

    To be abundantly clear, I don’t want the guys who carried out the orders. Some people are too stupid or too sadistic to say “no” to an illegal order like that. I want the guys who ordered and provided cover for those who ordered torture in the first place to face justice. This is an issue that “rots from the head”.

  14. Mike Spindell 1, September 18, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Ex Democratic Senator Bob Graham, who was on the Intelligence Committee through the Bush years

    I have a video of him being interviewed on The Dylan Ratigan Show, MSNBC …. Link … scroll to the bottom for just the video of Graham’s statement in accord with what you say ….

  15. Anonymously Yours 1, September 18, 2011 at 12:00 pm


    I am mobile now. I will look at the video and respond… Thanks

    The video is at the bottom of the post … no need to read the entire post … the video is standalone …

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