Twelve years after the worst terrorist attack in American history, President Obama yet again extended his predecessor’s Declaration of National Emergency for another year. The declaration, which was originally put into place on September 14, 2001, was renewed on Tuesday.
“The terrorist threat that led to the declaration on September 14, 2001, of a national emergency continues,” wrote President Obama. “For this reason, I have determined that it is necessary to continue in effect after September 14, 2013, the national emergency with respect to the terrorist threat.”
The powers provided to the executive branch by President George W. Bush’s declaration include the ability to “detain enlisted members of the Coast Guard beyond their terms of enlistment,” “order any enlisted member of the Coast Guard on the retired list to active duty” and “increase the number of members of the armed services on active duty beyond the number for which funds have been appropriated,” according to a report [PDF] by the Congressional Research Service.
In his May 23 speech on American counter-terrorism policy, President Obama indicated that the so-called “war on terror” initiated by Bush would soon be drawing to a close.
“Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue,” he said. “But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.”
Yet the president has retained much of the executive authority invoked by his predecessor, the least of which includes this declaration. Only in his May speech did President Obama suggest that Congress should “refine, and ultimately repeal” the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force which has served as a legal touchstone for the war on terror; he has not yet suggested a rough expiration date for the law.
Shortly after he renewed the declaration of a national emergency, President Obama obliquely hinted at the gradual accumulation of executive power in his speech on the Syria crisis. The past decade, he said, “put more and more war-making power in the hands of the president.”