Obama's Volte-Face on Preventive Detention Cheers the Left

Liberal writers claim a small victory as the President changes his mind on institutionalizing preventive detention.

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The Obama administration announced Thursday that it will rely on current law to hold terrorism suspects, instead of establishing a new and more permanent policy that would have institutionalized prolonged detention. Having agitated against the plan for months, liberal writers are declaring Obama's volte-face a small victory for progressives and civil liberties.


  • It's a Step in the Right Direction, Glenn Greenwald writes at Salon. He says the prospect of making the current detention laws permanent was frightening. "A new preventive detention law would have permanently institutionalized that power, almost certainly applying not only to the "war on Terror" but all future conflicts." But Greenwald isn't letting the Obama administration off the hook. He is disappointed by the Obama administration's embrace of the "Bush/Cheney" approach to terrorism.
When it comes to uprooting ("changing") the Bush/Cheney approach to Terrorism and civil liberties -- the issue which generated as much opposition to the last presidency as anything else -- the Obama administration has proven rather conclusively that tiny and cosmetic adjustments are the most it is willing to do. They love announcing new policies that cast the appearance of change but which have no effect whatsoever on presidential powers.
  • Progress, But Will He Go Further? Adam Serwer asks at The American Prospect. "This development marks a pretty significant victory--if not the end of the war--for civil liberties advocates, who had been fighting furiously against any attempt to pass a new preventive detention law." Still, Serwer notes that civil liberties advocates he spoke to were unimpressed. ACLU lawyer Michael W. Macleod-Ball told Serwer, "it may be one of the better results we could hope for, but in reality indefinite detention continues," a fact that he said is, "antithetical to the American justice system."
  • Cowardly, Conn Carroll protests at The Foundry. The conservative commentator says U.S. detention policy should be made legal. "The Obama administration’s decision not to seek congressional authorization for military detention exposes a lack of political courage to stare down the extremists in his own party and do the right thing for American security. This is the ultimate flip-flop and will have dangerous consequences for our national security."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.