Obama defends his drone policy

by The Grio

ObamaFrom The Grio — The constitutional lawyer-turned-president must be tired of being cast by critics as acting outside the bounds of the Constitution.

President Barack Obama’s nearly hour-long speech on national security Thursday included only a few new policies and did not reverse many of his more controversial national security stances.

The Obama administration will still use drones to kill suspected terrorists, even American citizens in some cases, although their use will be limited to those who “pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people,” and strikes in countries like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia are likely to be reduced in the future.

The administration will still prosecute people who leak national security information to journalists and hold prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, unless Congress explicitly allows the closure of that facility. Obama is not doing everything he can to reassure civil liberties advocates or those who worry about an overly-powerful executive branch.

Obama doctrine is reinforced

Instead of dramatically shifting policy, the speech, as Obama and his team intended, formalized the president’s general doctrine on national security and announced a clearly-defined set of goals and strategies which will give the public a clearer way to evaluate Obama’s policies and their impact.

And it was a detailed rebuttal to critics, particularly those in Congress, who have argued the administration has redefined American national security policy with little input from the public or lawmakers and too quickly resorted to controversial policies, such as seizing the phone records of a number of Associated Press reporters to investigate an alleged leak and killing hundreds in drone strikes over the last five years.

In particular, the president strongly and repeatedly defended his use of drones, arguing they were vastly preferable to the use of American troops on the ground to capture suspected terrorists and that the number of civilians killed in the strikes has been overstated.

Drones used as a last resort

“America’s actions are legal. We were attacked on 9/11. Within a week, Congress overwhelmingly authorized the use of force. Under domestic law, and international law, the United States is at war with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces,” the president said. “We are at war with an organization that right now would kill as many Americans as they could if we did not stop them first. So this is a just war – a war waged proportionally, in last resort, and in self-defense.”

Rejecting the notion his administration favors killing terrorists over capturing them, Obama emphasized he used drones only as a last resort and through a process with strong oversight.

“The use of drones is heavily constrained. America does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists – our preference is always to detain, interrogate, and prosecute them,” Obama said.

At the same time, Obama announced a series of actions that will directly address his critics, even if they don’t change the underlying policies. The administration, as the president announced today, will hold classified briefings with Congress to explain its exact criteria for targeted killings of suspected terrorists abroad, giving lawmakers a stronger role in the process.

The Department of Defense, instead of the CIA, will have a greater role in the strikes, shifting to a department that is required to detail more of its actions to lawmakers.  Obama’s emphasis in his speech on balancing prosecution of leaks with allowing journalists to investigate the government is likely to reassure the press, which has sharply attacked his administration since the disclosure of Department of Justice investigations into the phone records of journalists at Fox News and the Associated Press. The president said DOJ officials would meet with editors at key publications and discuss how leaks investigations would be conducted in the future.

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(Continue Reading @ The Grio…)

  • LKJ

    The real problem that I have with the drone strikes, is that they are not the targeted precise shellings that they are advertised as. We are not merely killing the intended targets, we are also taking out innocent people as well. This is why Pakistan tops the list of countries that hate America.

    Though I disagree with most of his policies I do applaud Rand Paul for demanding to know whether or not the DOJ thought that they could use drone strikes to kill Americans on American soil.

    Additionally, I am equally disappointing at Obama’s failure to close Guantanamo. I recognize that there are dangerous criminals there who do need to be held, but there are also plenty of innocent people who have not been sentenced, tried, or in some cases officially charged with anything. For what its worth, I do know that he is trying to close Guantanamo.

  • Anthony

    I think that the speech was meaningful in that Obama is publicly acknowledging that he is significantly pulling back on the use of drones. Records show that drone strikes are down close to 90% from the level that they had been used a year ago.

    I also think that the hunger strike at Guantanomo has given Obama the political space to force some meaningful change at that horrible place. I don’t know if he will be able to completely close it, but suspect that more than half of the prisoners will soon be removed to either their home countries, and few will be set free.

  • Sean

    This will be Obama most lasting legacy, the rise of the drones, he is now attempting to put the genie back in the bottle but he is too late, since he has been in office drone attacks have killed.881 civilians, including 176 children and these are low estimates. Other nations like Russia, china and Israel will soon be using drones to attack socalled enemies , violating international law and sovereignty .

    My issue with drones is based on the fear the only strong rich nations have national sovereignty , if a foreign nation flys a drone into American airspace is it not a act of war? But the powerful just baed on suspicion can’t fly armed drones into weaker nations in Africa, the Middle East and Asia .

    Scary times are ahead and this is just the beginning

  • MimiLuvs

    If President Obama was a Republican, would there be an outcry and protest about the drone situation? Would this information would’ve been leaked? And if this information was leaked, instead of cries of protest, would the American public and media outlet would’ve been saying something else?

  • Anthony

    I have to agree that Obama really set a precedent with his extensive use of drones, and America will be on weak ground when the situation occurs that someone is using drones in a way the US government does not like.

  • talaktochoba

    i see absolutely NOTHING wrong with the tactical use of drones–they cannot be killed or maimed by IEDs, require no great logistics (& associated expense) to support ( remember, 10 support personnel are required for every combat soldier) and pose none of the political problems of an occupying force of combat soldiers being forced to become street diplomats and policemen protecting the upper middle class ruling elite so they can safely dance the night away in club after club instead of serving their country;

  • LKJ

    The Bush doctrine was also subject to scrutiny and criticism. But it is worth noting that the number of drone strikes under Bush were far less than the number of drone strikes under Obama. As for whether or not the information would’ve been leaked I would guess that yes it would have, and there would have been an outcry no matter which party was in power.

  • mEE

    this drone strike policy is creating a new generation of young people that hate this country…and for good reason.

  • talaktochoba

    and of course you’d be first to sign up with the National Guard so that you could become part of the boots occupying some foreign land–just think how well the generation of citizens who have to live around you would love that…think Belfast;

  • Travis

    Okay so let me get this right… you’re in favor of extra-judicial murder w/ no regards for international diplomacy, international law, or human rights. Well okay then. You were born a little late in world history. Nazi Germany would have been perfect for you. How’s that kool-aid by the way?

  • Travis

    And you’re actually challenging someone else to think?!?!?! Consider how pervasive war would be if not already, with the prospect of totally automating it. Can you imagine maladjusted, immature, teenager manning drones from a remote location as if the whole prospect was a video game?!?!? You don’t have to imagine this cause it’s already a reality. The US military has for sometime been recruiting near teen-aged gamers to develop and actually participate in real-life war games.

  • talaktochoba

    call me when you see green death rays from Mars;

  • talaktochoba

    no, Travis, i’m afraid it is you born too late, or you would know the nazis favorited not defeat for its supposed enemies, but extermination–which is why their doctrines are so beloved by militant white supremacist groups the world over even today;

    for example, the attack on the embassy at Benghazi would’ve prompted the landing of several army and Air Force and secret police divisions to sweep the entire country of every living being, sparing only those whose remaining lives would’ve proven useful in labour camps or Mengele’s labs;

    by comparison to wholesale invasion/occupation, even by SEALS or CIA, drones are infinitely less expensive and invasive, take fullest advantage of the element of surprise only submarines can match, cause the least collateral damage and are virtually impossible to defend against;

    now, just ask the British which they would’ve preferred to send to the Falklands and the Russians which they would’ve preferred in Afghanistan;

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