Speaking to an audience at Oxford University on Friday, the Pentagon’s top lawyer Jeh Johnson signaled the Obama administration may soon transition from handling terrorism as an act of war to handling it as a criminal matter.
Johnson broached this information after re-stating Obama’s infamous pre-election line: “Al Qaeda is on the run.” In light of Al Qaeda’s supposed weakened state, he reasoned, the time is right to switch from a war on terror to “a counterterrorism effort against individuals” which can be carried out “by law enforcement and intelligence agencies.”
Johnson said that while the Obama administration has no intention of signing a “peace treaty with Al Qaeda,” they “cannot capture or kill every last terrorist who claims an affiliation with Al Qaeda.”
To the degree that Johnson’s words reflect Obama’s intentions, this represents a huge step backward for U.S. efforts against terror. Treating terrorists as criminals is a re-adoption of Bill Clinton’s approach, and that was the very approach that resulted in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
If Johnson’s words are an indicator of what Obama is about to do, it also means our domestic court system is about to be overloaded with case after case against captured terrorists.