Immediately after his historic inauguration, Obama used executive power to order a rollback of surveillance techniques that the Bush administration credits with keeping the homeland free of terrorist attacks since 9/11. At the same time, Obama announced plans to close the controversial GITMO in Cuba, where hundreds of terror suspects have been held for years without the opportunity to prove their innocence.
These pronouncements pleased the nation’s far left, which has argued that the Bush administration has routinely violated civil rights while overreaching in its effort the protect the American people. Most Americans, however, think safety-first — and that is an area that the Bush presidency has as its best hope for redemption.
As for GITMO, it will not close soon. There is the matter of what to do with the suspects still being held; other countries don’t want them. While they could be transferred to high-security federal prisons in the United States, that puts the prisoners at risk for their own safety, and does nothing to fix due-process concerns.
Then there is the news that about 10 percent of the GITMO detainees who have been freed have joined — or rejoined — the jihad against the United States.
The biggest gamble, however, is the dismantling of information-gathering techniques that have proven themselves effective. Americans during the following decades, as information is declassified, will come to realize that luck was just a small part of keeping this country safe since 9/11, and that good-old detective work — yes, some of which pushed the constitutional envelope — gets most of the credit.
Americans voted for change on Nov. 4, but we don’t think that includes a scuttling of security measures that have proven themselves to work.
If there is a repeat of 9/11 that an investigation determines could have been enabled by a slackening of security measures then Obama’s presidency will have been defined, rightly or wrongly. Nothing else will ever matter as much.