Byline: Daniel Klaidman
During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama vowed to roll back Bush-era abuses and restore the proper balance between security and freedom. A few days after being sworn in, he elated progressives by banning torture, beginning the process of closing Guantanamo, and putting military commissions on ice. But a year on, a majority of Bush's counterterror policies remain largely, if not entirely, intact. Critics on the left call Obama "Bush lite"; meanwhile, Dick Cheney hammers him for aiding and comforting the enemy. So who's right? And what philosophy is the administration adopting as a guide in the war on terror?
Neither criticism hits the mark. Dismantling the CIA's enhanced-interrogation program and shuttering Gitmo are substantive reforms that improve our global image. The counterterror policies that remain--including indefinite military detention and warrantless wiretapping--are now on firmer legal footing. Obama's lawyers have sought the input of Congress and the blessing of the courts.
These changes aren't just window dressing; they represent a critical conceptual shift. Under Bush, policy sometimes seemed to be driven as …