Across a range of issues, the Obama Administration is discovering that setting national security policy and balancing the relevant trade-offs is more difficult than it appeared when President Bush was in charge and then-Senator Obama and his advisors could take policy positions without any responsibility for implementing them. The latest is the announcement that the Administration will revive military commissions, albeit with some additional protections for defendants.
Administration officials said they were making changes in the system to grant detainees expanded legal rights, but critics said the move was a sharp departure from the direction President Obama had suggested during the campaign, when he characterized the commissions as an unnecessary compromise of American values.Insert snark here.
In a statement, Mr. Obama noted that the country had a long tradition of using military commissions, and said the changes would make the tribunals, to be used along with federal courts, a fairer avenue for prosecution. "This is the best way to protect our country, while upholding our deeply held values," Mr. Obama said.
The commissions are run by the Pentagon under a 2006 law passed specifically for terrorism suspects, in part to make it easier to win convictions than in federal courts. The Obama administration suspended the military commission system in its first week in office.
Meanwhile, what does it say that the Administration has resurrected or maintained the core elements of so many Bush Administration national security policies while OLC nominee Dawn Johnsen sits in limbo? And would the Administration's policies be any different were she already confirmed?