The new president will soon have to confront some interesting legal problems, such as the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war, wiretapping of citizens, detention of prisoners and citizens without trial, torture procedures, and possibly the decision whether to prosecute officials for crimes in office.
On one hand, civil libertarians and other critics of the Bush administration may feel betrayed if Obama doesn't move aggressively to reverse legal policies that they believe have violated the Constitution and international law.
On the other hand, Obama risks alienating some conservative Americans and some — but by no means all — military and intelligence officials if he seeks to hold officials accountable for those expansive policies.
These are some of the legal issues confronting him:
* How does he close the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba? He's pledged to shutter it, but how quickly can he do so when it holds some detainees whom no administration would want to release?
* Obama has declared coercive interrogation methods such as waterboarding unconstitutional and illegal, but will his Justice Department investigate or prosecute Bush administration officials who ordered or condoned such techniques?
* Will the new administration press to learn the full extent of the Bush administration's electronic eavesdropping and data-mining activities, and will it curtail or halt some of them?
* The Bush administration exerted tight control over the Justice Department by hiring more Republican-leaning political appointees and ousting those who were viewed as disloyal. Will Obama give the department more ideological independence?
Although Obama is likely to ban waterboarding and other aggressive techniques soon after taking office, prosecuting administration officials not only would be legally challenging because legislation has granted them immunity but also would be seen by Republicans as highly divisive.