Surveillance

President Obama on the Jon Stewart Show

By Jack Goldsmith
Friday, October 19, 2012, 8:40 AM

The President had this to say about issues of interest to readers of the blog:

Obama: There are some things that we haven't gotten done.  I still want to close Guantanamo.  We haven’t been able to get that through Congress.  One thing we have got to do is put a legal architecture in place and we need congressional help do that to make sure that not only am I reined in but any president's reigned in in terms of some of the decisions that we’re making.  There are tough tradeoffs.  Sometimes there's bad folks on the other side of the world and you have to make a call and it's not optimal but when you look at our track record what we've been able to do is to say we ended the war in Iraq, we're winding down the war in Afghanistan, we've gone after al Qaeda and its leadership.  It's true al Qaeda’s still active at least sort of remnants of it are staging in other parts of Middle East and sometimes you have to make tough calls but you can do so in a way that's consistent with international and American law.

Stewart: Within that as it ratchets down, I think people have been surprised to see the strength of the Bush era warrantless wire-tapping laws and those kinds of things not also be lessened.  The things he put in place people that people might have thought were government overreach and that maybe they had the mind you would perhaps tone down you haven't.

Obama: Well, the truth is we actually have modified them and built a legal structure and safeguards that in place. That we’re there before on a whole range of issues.  Now, they're not real sexy issues.

Stewart: You don’t know what I find sexy.

Josh Gerstein has a good analysis of this exchange, and what the President – who has resisted legislation on GTMO-related and most terrorism-policy matters since promising to work with Congress on such  issues in the spring of 2009 – might have meant when he said he needed “congressional help” to rein in him and future presidents.