Former CIA Chief: Obama’s War on Terror Same as Bush’s, But With More Killing

President Barack Obama has closely followed the policy of his predecessor, President George W. Bush, when it comes to tactics used in the “war on terror” — from rendition, targeted killings, state secrets, Guantanamo Bay to domestic spying, according to Michael Hayden, Bush’s former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency.

“But let me repeat my hypothesis: Despite the frequent drama at the political level, America and Americans have found a comfortable center line in what it is they want their government to do and what it is they accept their government doing. It is that practical consensus that has fostered such powerful continuity between two vastly different presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, when it comes, when it comes to this conflict,” Hayden said Friday while speaking at the University of Michigan.

The comments come two months before the Nov. 6 elections, where Obama, a Democrat, faces off for re-election against GOP challenger Mitt Romney. And Hayden’s remarks give credence to what many who cared about the topic had already realized: Obama largely mirrors Bush when it comes to the war on terror.

Hayden, who oversaw the CIA’s use of torture techniques against detainees and the expansion of the NSA to illegally spy on American citizens, admitted to an initial skepticism of Obama. He also publicly criticized the administration in 2009 for making public the Bush-era legal memos that attempted to re-define torture as “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

But Hayden, in a nearly 80-minute lecture posted on C-Span, said Obama came to embrace Bush’s positions. Both Bush and Obama said the country was at war. The enemy was al-Qaida. The war was global in nature. And the United States would have to take the fight to the enemy, wherever it may be, he said.

“And yet, you’ve had two presidents, the American Congress, and the American court system, in essence, sign up to all four of those sentences,” Hayden said.

Moments later, Hayden added:

“And so, we’ve seen all of these continuities between two very different human beings, President Bush and President Obama. We are at war, targeted killings have continued, in fact, if you look at the statistics, targeted killings have increased under Obama.”

He said that was the case because, in one differing path between the two presidents, Obama in 2009 closed CIA “black sites” and ratcheted down on torturing detainees. But instead of capturing so-called “enemy combatants,” President Obama kills them instead, Hayden said.

“We have made it so politically dangerous and so legally difficult that we don’t capture anyone anymore,” Hayden said. “We take another option, we kill them. Now. I don’t morally oppose that.”

Obama’s kill list has even included American citizens.

Hayden noted Obama campaigned on promises to close the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, and to bring more transparency to government.

Obama failed to close Guantanamo and continued the use of the often-cited “state secrets” defense in court cases challenging the government’s policies on the war on terror.

“Despite a campaign that was based on a very powerful promise of transparency, President Obama, and again in my view quite correctly, has used the state secrets argument in a variety of courts, as much as President Bush,” Hayden said. He noted that he appreciated Obama’s invocation of the state secrets privilege, as Hayden himself was named as a defendant in some of the cases.

Hayden also noted that Obama, as an Illinois senator in 2008, eventually voted to legalize President Bush’s once-secret warrantless spying program adopted in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. The measure also granted America’s telecoms immunity from lawsuits for their complicity in the spy program.

The law authorizes the government to electronically eavesdrop on Americans’ phone calls and e-mail without a probable-cause warrant so long as one of the parties to the communication is believed outside the United States. The communications may be intercepted “to acquire foreign intelligence information.”

“The FISA Act not only legitimated almost every thing president Bush had told me to do under his Article II authorities as commander in chief, but in fact gave the National Security Agency a great deal more authority to do these kind of things,” Hayden said.

The law, now known as the FISA Amendments Act, expires at year’s end. The Obama administration said congressional reauthorization was the administration’s “top intelligence priority,” despite 2008 campaign promises to make the act more privacy-friendly.

As for the election, Hayden indicated it may not matter, at least when it comes to anti-terrorism policy. He seemingly confirmed that the rock band the Who was correct when it blurted “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

Hayden, who said he was an adviser the Romney presidential campaign, said Romney would largely follow Obama’s same path, too, if Romney was elected.

“If we’re looking forward,” Hayden said, “I actually suspect there is going to be some continuity between a President Romney and and his predecessor, too, if that came to pass

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  1. Sesepuh 5 years ago

    I think this waiting plcioy actually benefits most those who want to have a civil ceremony for the benefit of friends and family members who could not attend a temple ceremony by giving legitimacy and authenticity to the civil wedding. Those unable to attend a temple sealing don’t have to wonder whether they were at the real wedding or whether the real wedding was the one the next day in the temple.I am the only member of the church in my family. I am still unmarried, and of course I struggle with how to include my family in my wedding, but for me having a civil wedding immediately preceding my temple sealing would not be the answer. My family would know, or at least I hope they would know, that for me what’s important is being sealed for eternity which only happens in the temple. Having to wait a year though would force me to take my civil wedding seriously. I couldn’t reasonably get married civilly then postpone marital life for a year (a day or a few days possibly, but not a year). And I doubt anyone could, nor could I see a justification for doing so.So the waiting plcioy really protects civil marriage from being just a formality, just a necessary precursor to a temple sealing. It also protects the couple from staging a wedding for the benefit of family and friends that somehow lacks sincerity or authenticity. When the civil and religious weddings occur simultaneously there is no specific reason to question the legitimacy of either or to attach greater weight to one over the other. This seems preferable. And where they cannot occur simultaneously, having them as close together as possible so they can be considered one event seems the next best option, but only when this separation of the two is not by choice but by necessity.Separating the two by choice automatically gives cause to question the legitimacy, necessity or sincerity of one. I am not saying they can’t both be legitimate weddings but it becomes questionable.The major assumption I make is that civil marriage is valuable and deserves to be protected. This assumption could certainly be argued.However, I also make it obvious that I value a temple marriage above a civil marriage. Somehow for me a civil marriage would be less than real. I believe this is not the ideal attitude.For me though, the responsibilities accepted in a civil marriage are merely a subset of the responsibilities of the eternal covenant of marriage made in a temple. In honoring and valuing my temple marriage I also honor and value my civil marriage. Nevertheless, I think civil marriage is important. And I think it is important to note that the law of chastity requires civil marriage, not temple marriage, to make sexual relations permissible. I will also note that having simultaneous civil and religious weddings does not guarantee that the couple will value each equally. In some cases couples may view their temple ceremony as exclusively religious and completely devalue the civil element. Others may have a temple sealing for social or cultural reasons and not religious ones, intending only to live in a civil marriage after the sealing.The waiting plcioy would affect these two types of couples (I know these two are certainly not the only types)differently if for some reason they felt the need to have both a civil and temple ceremony. Those inclined to devalue their civil wedding and view their temple sealing as their real wedding could not have a civil wedding with sincerity and honesty. What they really want is to have their family at their temple sealing and having a civil wedding does not fulfill that desire, nor will it likely fulfill the desires of the family to participate if they question the sincerity or authenticity of the civil wedding.At least the waiting plcioy increases the likelihood that the family’s desire to participate in the wedding will be fulfilled by giving legitimacy to the civil wedding. So in some cases waiting a year may be the necessary sacrifice on the part of the couple to fulfill the desire of their loved ones to participate in their wedding.Those who have a temple sealing for social or cultural reasons but who feel equal social pressure to have a civil wedding would of course be hurt by the plcioy. The temple sealing a year after a civil wedding is unlikely to achieve the desired social or cultural effect. But a temple ceremony is religious and those married in the temple enter into covenants. If they have no desire or intent to keep these covenants they are better off not making them regardless of the social discomfort not marrying in the temple may cause.Here having a civil ceremony and no temple ceremony is actually the best option, although I fear some in this situation would yield to the pressure of having a temple sealing. But for those who feel they must have a civil ceremony the waiting period at least decreases the likelihood of them having a temple sealing that would be damaging to them.All in all, I only really see good effects of the waiting plcioy.

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