During his presidential run, Obama promised to withdraw all U.S. combat troops within 16 months of taking office, but under his current plan, the number of 142,000 troops will be drawn down to 35,000-50,000 within 19 months. At the same time, Obama has committed more troops to Afghanistan, fulfilling the request from generals who want to step up the effort against a rising insurgency. Iraq, unsurprisingly, is one of the new administration's top agenda items. The president met with his close advisers on his first day in office to discuss the drawdown.
But the Obama administration hasn't completely torn itself away from Bush's policies. The president's Justice Department is defending former Bush official John Yoo, so-called author of the "torture memo," and who is being sued by Jose Padilla, a suspected terrorist who says Yoo's memos on interrogation policies led to his detention and torture. "This administration has made no secret of the fact that it disagrees with the previous administration's approach to many legal issues in the national security arena," DOJ spokesman Matthew Miller said in a written statement defending the decision. "Nevertheless, the Department of Justice generally defends employees and former employees in lawsuits that are filed in connection to their official duties."
The Obama administration also continues to uphold -- so far -- the controversial Bush-era "state secrets" argument. Holder said the few cases he has reviewed so far since taking over the reins at the DOJ show that the "invocation of the doctrine was correct."
The "state secrets" defense has been used in cases of rendition and torture and the first time Obama was put to test was when detainees tried to sue a Boeing subsidiary for its alleged participation in the CIA's rendition program. Holder argued in federal court in California that the case should be dismissed based on a "state secrets privilege" and because it would cause valuable national security issues to be revealed in open court. The ACLU lashed back at the administration, saying the president is not living up to his campaign promises and offers "more of the same." The Obama administration was tested again when the National Security Agency's wiretapping program came under scrutiny and once again officials invoked the same defense.
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