David Corn

David Corn

Washington Bureau Chief

Corn has broken stories on presidents, politicians, and other Washington players. He's written for numerous publications and is a talk show regular. His best-selling books include Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War.

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Obama's Counterterrorism Speech: A Pivot Point on Drones and More?

| Thu May 23, 2013 12:03 PM EDT

In recent years, conservative and liberal reaction to President Barack Obama's national security policies has often converged. Conservatives note that Obama has continued (or expanded) many of the Bush-Cheney policies and methods—drones, indefinite detention, military commissions, use of the state secrets privilege—and this, they proclaim, proves that the Bush-Cheney regime was not excessive or unlawful. Liberals, pointing to Obama's decisions in these areas, complain that the fellow who once campaigned against the excesses of the Bush-Cheney years has gone over to the dark side. A Justice Department white paper leaked in February explaining the administration's justification for targeted killing abroad of US citizens suspected of terrorism embodied the sort of executive power overreach associated with Obama's predecessor. And the Obama administration's fierce pursuit of national security leaks—which led the Justice Department to collect secretly information on the communications of the Associated Press and James Rosen of Fox News—reinforces the view that Obama has taken a step or two toward an imperial presidency.

White House aides rankle at any comparison to Bush and Cheney. They dutifully note that in his first days in office, Obama ended the use of torture (a.k.a. enhanced interrogation techniques) and declared his intention to shut down Guantanamo. (Gitmo remains open, but that's mainly because congressional Republicans and Democrats thwarted the White House effort to develop a high-security facility in the United States to house the detainees.) And the Obama-ites contend they have reformed some of the Bush-Cheney policies, such as the use of military commissions, to justify maintaining these practices. Also, they are not reluctant to add that Obama did end the war in Iraq and is downsizing the war in Afghanistan (at a faster pace than then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then-CIA chief David Petraeus urged in 2011). But much of this defense has tended to get lost as the administration has fired off drone strikes without acknowledging the individual attacks and has, following in the path of previous administrations, resisted certain congressional oversight efforts.

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