Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Obama's Rules

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Obama's Rules

Article excerpt

IN WHAT was billed as a major policy address, President Obama on Thursday delivered an hourlong speech titled "The Future of our Fight against Terrorism." The great American sage Benjamin Franklin could have encapsulated the essence of Obama's speech with brevity: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

The president addressed several issues that have clouded his presidency: The use of unmanned drones, the continuing operation of a military prison at Guantanamo Bay and the government surveillance of American journalists.

Obama was most successful in providing context for how all three situations came into being: the so-called war on terror. The president took credit for the death of Osama bin Laden and the weakening of al-Qaida. He also recounted the acts of terrorism, both on American soil and abroad, that occurred before 9/11 and in the years after. The war on al-Qaida may have an end, but the global war on terrorism will continue. How America fights that kind of war is at the crux of our national debate over civil liberties.

Americans are less bothered by the technology of unmanned drones than by the use of them against U.S. citizens. The president used an analogy that a drone strike against a U.S. citizen plotting a terrorist attack is no different from a SWAT team taking out a sniper. It is and it isn't. The underlying fear with drone strikes is that the power to decide who is guilty without due process lies in the executive branch. The American public needs assurances that there are very specific guidelines about how and when a strike is ordered. The president said now there are.

While there is a need to protect national security interests, there is an equal need and, yes, a responsibility on the part of the executive branch to ensure that civil liberties are not compromised in the pursuit of national security.

That is part of the dilemma of Guantanamo Bay. Keeping detainees indefinitely without due process is contrary to America's democratic principles. …

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