Civil rights campaigners were thrilled when a constitutional lawyer entered the White House, expecting Barack Obama would restore the rights they felt had been eroded during George W. Bush’s presidency.
This would include closing the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and seeking a better way to handle detainees accused of terrorism.
Once entering the White House, however, Mr. Obama was faced with having to deal with the realities of the fight against terrorism and keeping Americans safe.
Guantanamo is still open, military commissions – where the jury is made up of military officials and the U.S. Constitution doesn’t apply – still operate, he has authorized the “targeted killings” of American citizens, and the Patriot Act – called a “surveillance superstructure” by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – has been extended.
The Democratic president has gone even further. A new law, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), is the subject of a recent lawsuit and remains at the centre of a controversy over just how much it erodes civil liberties.
“Obama has been an unmitigated disaster for civil liberties,” said Jonathan Turley, a U.S. legal scholar.
Activists have fought back by challenging the Obama administration in court over Section 1021 of the NDAA.
This would have stripped U.S. citizens of due process in suspected terrorism cases and allowed the military to hold them indefinitely.
This could include anyone “who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.”