Legalizing the War on Terror: Obama's Struggle to Strike the Balance Between Imperial and Imperiled
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Upon taking office this past January, Barack Obama?s symbolically charged first gesture as president was to issue an executive order for the closure of the notorious off-shore detention facility at Guant?namo Bay. Shortly thereafter, his administration delivered an unqualified repudiation of torture and his attorney general publicly withdrew a number of key Department of Justice opinions crafted in the early years of the ?war on terror??arguably those which leaned the heaviest on the controversial assertion that in times of crisis, our constitution vests the Commander in Chief with the authority to act alone, without oversight, to ensure the survival of the nation. In a speech outlining his present national security policy, Obama again seemed to reject the Bush Administration?s vision of a unitary executive when he remarked that ?In our constitutional system, prolonged detention [of war on terror suspects] should not be the decision of any one man.? And yet, at the close of his first trimester in office, those on both sides of the partisan divide note that such deft symbolism and rhetoric has thus far been accompanied by little substantive departure from the policies of his predecessor. (For the purposes of this project the focus will be on policies relevant to the detention of so-called ?enemy combatants?.) My research explores the validity of this critique and moreover attempts to provide insight into the intentions of the Obama administration regarding the potential contraction of executive power suggested by the President?s stated constitutional philosophy.