The Campaign Spot

By ‘Change’, Perhaps They Meant ‘Keep The Same’

Hope and change, hope and change

Barack Obama’s incoming administration is unlikely to bring criminal charges against government officials who authorized or engaged in harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists during the George W. Bush presidency. Obama, who has criticized the use of torture, is being urged by some constitutional scholars and human rights groups to investigate possible war crimes by the Bush administration.

Two Obama advisers said there’s little — if any — chance that the incoming president’s Justice Department will go after anyone involved in authorizing or carrying out interrogations that provoked worldwide outrage.

Hope and change, hope and change

National security experts believe that Mr. Brennan, who endorsed Obama early in the campaign, has the inside track to Langley, where he served as deputy executive director under George Tenet and the founding director of the Terrorist Threat Analysis Center…
Brennan and Obama have not always agreed on intelligence policy. Brennan supported retroactive legal immunity for telecom companies who helped the government’s surveillance programs after 9/11; Obama did not.
Brennan’s long association George Tenet and with the CIA during the first few years of the Bush administration may give civil liberties advocates and Congressional Democrats some pause; it is not clear to what degree Brennan participated in or was read into many of the intelligence community’s controversial post 9/11 /Iraq programs, including extraordinary renditions and orders that sanctioned coercive interrogation techniques.

Hope and change, hope and change

When he takes office, Mr. Obama will inherit greater power in domestic spying power than any other new president in more than 30 years, but he may find himself in an awkward position as he weighs how to wield it. As a presidential candidate, he condemned the N.S.A. operation as illegal, and threatened to filibuster a bill that would grant the government expanded surveillance powers and provide immunity to phone companies that helped in the Bush administration’s program of wiretapping without warrants. But Mr. Obama switched positions and ultimately supported the measure in the Senate, angering liberal supporters who accused him of bowing to pressure from the right.

Advisers to Mr. Obama appear divided over whether he should push forcefully to investigate the operations of the wiretapping program, which was run in secret from September 2001 until December 2005.

Hope and change, hope and change

Obama pledged during the campaign to withdraw the remaining U.S. combat troops in 16 months, at roughly the rate of one combat brigade a month. The plan tentatively approved in Baghdad yesterday would essentially give Obama until the end of 2011 to pull out all U.S. forces, while also putting the imprimatur of the Bush administration on the idea that there needs to be an ironclad deadline for troop removal.

“It greatly eases the pressure on [Obama] to meet a fixed abstract schedule for U.S. withdrawals,” said Anthony H. Cordesman, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies

In at least one respect, the timeline may complicate what Obama had proposed on the campaign trail: leaving a residual force in Iraq to protect U.S. officials and conduct counter-terrorism operations after the withdrawal of all combat troops. The agreement makes clear that the U.S. government would need approval from the Iraqis if a residual force is to remain beyond Dec. 31, 2011.

So other than interrogations, CIA leadership, domestic wiretapping, the Iraq withdrawal, we’re looking at dramatic wholesale changes to policies related to the war on terror…

But at least Joe Lieberman is no longer in charge of overseeing the Department of Homeland Security. Oh, wait…

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