The Hoover Institution Press released Speaking the Law: The Obama Administration's Addresses on National Security Law, an examination of the speeches of the Obama administration on national security legal issues, detailing their positions on principles currently contested at both the domestic and the international level. The authors show how comprehensively the administration has, in fact, addressed issues on which critics often accuse it of obfuscation and silence. This complete collection of speeches offers a one-of-a-kind insight that will be a useful guide for policy makers for years to come.
“As President Obama’s administration comes to a close, his policies regarding national security will be thoroughly dissected. From a legal standpoint, President Obama has shaped national security policy in such a way that it creates a new level of dialogue that will be discussed extensively in the coming months as we look to a new administration,” said Hoover visiting fellow Kenneth Anderson.
When Barack Obama came into office, the strategic landscape facing the United States in its overseas counterterrorism operations was undergoing a shift. Even before the rise of drones necessitated the articulation of legal doctrine, the Obama administration had to explain itself. The book describes what the Obama administration has said about the legal framework in which it is operating with respect to such questions as the nature of the war on terrorism, the use of drones and targeted killings, detention, trial by military commission and in federal courts, and interrogation.
“The Obama administration has gotten a tremendous amount right. The framework remains incomplete in certain areas and has been in considerable flux in the second term, but by and large, the speeches lay out in considerable detail a developing legal framework that moves the country considerably and constructively toward an institutional settlement of contested questions,” said Benjamin Wittes, a member of Hoover’s Task Force on National Security and Law.
President Obama faced unprecedented challenges regarding national security on entering the White House. Although President Obama’s tactics were rightfully met with intense scrutiny at times, he was able to establish a historic legal foundation that will provide future administrations with a compelling point of reference as they develop their own national security strategies.
Kenneth Anderson is a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he is also a member of its Task Force on National Security and Law. He is also a professor of international law at Washington College of Law, American University, Washington, DC.
Benjamin Wittes is a member of the Hoover Institution Task Force on National Security and Law, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, and editor in chief of Lawfare.
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