Earlier this week, the Obama Administration released a brief announcing that it would drop the term "enemy combatant" in dealing with terrorist suspects, without otherwise making any substantial changes to the previous (read: Bush) policy regarding "terrorism." The "new" rules?
According to the release, the U.S. can still detain prisoners who have provided "substantial support" to Al-Qaeda or the Taliban. An administration who wanted to make more than a token attempt at coming out on the side of civil rights might have bothered to be more specific. The miniscule addition of "substantial" is hardly a dramatic change.
Note that according to principles of due process, people have the right to be informed of the specific charges against them, followed by a speedy trial. Time will tell if these alleged terrorists and terrorist collaborators will receive trials, and not the Queen of Hearts-styled trials ("sentences first!") we've been getting.
Glenn Greenwald of Salon sums up Obama's platform nicely:
Barack Obama has perfected a three-step maneuver that could never even be attempted by a politician lacking his rhetorical skill or cool cynicism.
First: Denounce your presidential predecessor for a given policy, energizing your party’s base and capitalizing on his abiding unpopularity. Second: Pretend to have reversed that policy upon taking office with a symbolic act or high-profile statement. Third: Adopt a version of that same policy, knowing that it’s the only way to govern responsibly or believing that doing otherwise is too difficult.
The new brief makes a token attempt at proving Obama's authority to violate habeas corpus on Constitutional grounds but still falls flat. "Po-TA-to, po-TAH-to. . ." We didn't even hear very much about Bush's violations of due process, and that's when people hated him. Do we really think that that's gonna change?