Eli Lake has a super-interesting article at Reason.com on the continuities between the war power policies of President Obama and President George W. Bush.
The U.S. still reserves the right to hold suspected terrorists indefinitely without charge, try them via military tribunal, keep them imprisoned even if they are acquitted, and kill them in foreign countries with which America is not formally at war (including Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan). When Obama closed the secret CIA prisons known as “black sites,” he specifically allowed for temporary detention facilities where a suspect could be taken before being sent to a foreign or domestic prison, a practice known as “rendition.” And even where the Obama White House has made a show of how it has broken with the Bush administration, such as outlawing enhanced interrogation techniques, it has done so through executive order, which can be reversed at any time by the sitting president.
While it’s true that President Obama appears more reluctant to use these extraordinary powers than his predecessor, he is nonetheless asserting, enthusiastically at times, that he has such powers. And because so much of the American war on terror is conducted in secret, it is difficult to know what Obama is and is not doing to wage it.
Obama has done a lot to disapprove of in counter-terrorism, including exposing individual CIA agents to publicity and legal jeopardy. Our Elise Cooper has reported well on this abuse, see for example here and here. But some conservative criticism of the president has, ironically, given him undeserved political cover, by enabling him to pretend that he has radically changed Bush administration policies. The true point is that in office, Obama has discovered that those policies were necessary and reasonable.