WASHINGTON – From indefinite detention of terror suspects, to closed military commissions, low transparency, and targeted drone hits: Barack Obama's administration and its security stands have raised eyebrows of many of those to his own left.
Indeed, some fear he is following in the footsteps of his predecessor George W. Bush, a national security hardliner.
In a review of Obama's first 18 months in office, the influential American Civil Liberties Union warned the Obama administration was "in danger of establishing 'new normal' with the worst Bush-era policies" on national security.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs hit back at the report, arguing that there "are very different evaluations" on the steps the administration has put in place since January 2009.
Gibbs added: "at almost every opportunity, somebody, I think wrongly, suggests that our policies are markedly different from (those of Bush) or our policies are such that they won't keep us safe, and criticize the positions that the president has taken.
"So it's ironic now that, in the same argument, there's somebody who says they're completely the same," the White House spokesman said.
In its review, the ACLU said the good intentions of candidate Obama -- to bar torture; close the US detention facility for terror suspects the US operates on its naval base in Guantanamo, Cuba; and bolster his government's transparency across the board -- have been eroded to the point of being dropped in some cases.
"Regrettably, in a pattern that has repeated itself throughout the administration's first eighteen months, a significant achievement was followed by a step back," the ACLU charged.
Obama has chalked up some achievements, the ACLU said. It cited decrees to ban torture, ordering the closures of the Guantanamo detention center and secret CIA detention facilities, signed just after he was sworn in as president. It also lauded his release of some sensitive security documents from the Bush era shedding light on a system authorizing torture of which senior officials knew.
But the ACLU slammed as unacceptable the unlimited detention without prosecution of about 50 detainees in Guantanamo. That despite the fact the organization also praised the administration for releasing some 67 detainees from Guantanamo.
The ACLU condemned the reestablishment with some reforms of military commissions, to be used in cases of war crimes.
The administration does not accept the criticism.
"The military commissions were radically reformed," argued Greg Craig, a former Obama legal chief who told NPR radio, "There was enormous amount of additional process added and there was a bipartisan majority in the Senate and the House.
"I can't say that for many pieces of legislation, but that piece of legislation strengthened due process. It shows a break with the Bush administration policy rather than a continuity," Craig insisted.
Among the backsliding and deepening trouble spots, the ACLU has claimed, are the increase by the Obama administration in military strikes with drones, even against US citizens.
Also on its list of deepening concerns were the administration's refusal to prosecute those who came up with and ordered the use of torture on the heels of the September 11 terror strikes on US targets, and the extension of FBI monitoring of electronic communications.
© AFP 2021