National security policy on detainees in Washington seems finally to have gelled:
This is the upshot of the detention language in the defense policy bill that Mr. Obama signed this month and has received too little media attention. Congress has confirmed the power claimed by both the Bush and Obama Administrations to detain and question members of al Qaeda or “associated” groups whenever or wherever and for however long the executive deems proper. Enemy combatants will get their day in court but won’t be treated as common criminals who can invoke Miranda rights.
And guess what: That sound you don’t hear is the lack of a political uproar. The U.S. seems to have arrived at a political consensus that is far closer to the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld rules than their critics want to admit…
While Mr. Obama sought to hamstring the Bush Administration while he was in the Senate, in this negotiation he fought and won executive leeway. Under the bill, a President can still issue various “waivers,” including on the requirement for military detention. And the President will still be able to choose whether the military or civilian authorities interrogate and eventually try a suspect.
Congress also accepted the Obama Administration’s expansive definition of “associated” terror groups, which the White House has used to legally justify ramped-up drone strikes on terrorists in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere who aren’t necessarily card-carrying members of al Qaeda. Whatever happened to all those cries about the Imperial Presidency?
Well, everything’s different now.