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  (Source: TheChive)
Admission comes after months of denials, obfuscation, and silence

On Wednesday while President Barack Hussein Obama was preparing for his speech on drone death strikes, his administration acknowledged details on the strikes for the first time publicly.  

I. Administration Admits It Killed Americans With Drone Strikes

In his speech today, President Obama preached a message of optimism, suggesting that the "war on terror" might one day be over via "quiet determination; that strength of character and bond of fellowship; that refutation of fear – that is both our sword and our shield."

But their were also grim overtones.  Just hours before, on Wednesday, administration took a begrudging step forward, confirming -- for the first time -- that four American citizens had been killed in the Middle East with (warrantless) drone death strikes during President Obama's two terms.  Three of the four dead Americans were "inadvertent" casualties of strikes on other targets -- only one (Anwar al-Awlaki) was intended to be killed.

This marked a reversal of earlier policies that urged White House Press Secretaries to dodge or deflect questions on the killings, which had been the subject of lawsuits and widespread media reports.

The administration in its acknowledgement defended the legality of the killings, arguing the strikes met the standard set forth in Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.'s letter [PDF] to Congress, in which he wrote that an American terrorist must be classified as "a continuing, imminent threat to Americans", and be in a place where capture is not a feasible possibility.  It says that the President's speech "will discuss why the use of drone strikes is necessary, legal and just, while addressing the various issues raised by our use of targeted action."

President Obama
President Obama promises to be "transparent" about drone death strikes on American citizens. 
[Image Source: AP]

 
While the President is standing firm on killing Americans who turn to "terrorism", he's also reportedly extending new protections for foreign terrorists.  In classified policy guidance he reportedly signed this week, the President rules that strikes on foreigners must meet the same criteria as those on Americans.  The policy is expected to reduce strikes in regions like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia -- and the civilian casualties that have accompanied such strikes.

President Obama also wants to transfer the drone strikes program to military control.  To date most of the death strikes have been the handiwork of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Predator missile
Some feel the President shouldn't have the power to order the warrantless killings of Americans on U.S. soil. [Image Source: Drone Wars UK]

In his speech, the President somewhat dodged the question of warrantless drone death strikes on Americans on U.S. soil, a particular controversial part of the policy AG Holder defended.  To date no American is known to have been killed in such a strike, but AG Holder argued it would be legal in some extreme circumstances.

In his speech President Obama seems to suggest strikes on U.S. soil are off-limits, stating:

For the record, I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen – with a drone, or a shotgun – without due process. Nor should any President deploy armed drones over U.S. soil.

But when a U.S. citizen goes abroad to wage war against America – and is actively plotting to kill U.S. citizens; and when neither the United States, nor our partners are in a position to capture him before he carries out a plot – his citizenship should no more serve as a shield than a sniper shooting down on an innocent crowd should be protected from a swat team.

However, the President's wording does not conclusively state that his policy is to never use drone strikes on U.S. soil -- just that he thinks it's a bad idea.

II. Lawsuits, Criticism Heats Up

Critics say the President's defense of drone killings is unacceptable.  Zeke Johnson of Amnesty International told The New York Times, "The Obama administration continues to claim authority to kill virtually anyone anywhere in the world under the ‘global battlefield’ legal theory and a radical redefinition of the concept of imminence.  President Obama should reject these concepts in his speech tomorrow and commit to upholding human rights, not just in word but in deed."

His agency has an active campaign against the death strikes.

The U.S. does pay "grief payments" of a few thousand dollars to civilian victims of drone strikes, but humanitarian groups say that is not acceptable.  The Pakistani judicial system has a current effort to propose UN war crimes charges against the U.S. for the civilian casualties.

Drone Killing
Critics say "grief payments" for civilian drone strike victims are not acceptable.
[Image Source: Reuters]
 
The President acknowledges civilian deaths, but called them a necessary evil in his speech.  He comments:

This last point is critical, because much of the criticism about drone strikes – at home and abroad – understandably centers on reports of civilian casualties. There is a wide gap between U.S. assessments of such casualties, and non-governmental reports. Nevertheless, it is a hard fact that U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties, a risk that exists in all wars. For the families of those civilians, no words or legal construct can justify their loss. For me, and those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live, just as we are haunted by the civilian casualties that have occurred through conventional fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But as Commander-in-Chief, I must weigh these heartbreaking tragedies against the alternatives. To do nothing in the face of terrorist networks would invite far more civilian casualties – not just in our cities at home and facilities abroad, but also in the very places –like Sana’a and Kabul and Mogadishu – where terrorists seek a foothold. Let us remember that the terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes.

The decision to acknowledge drone death strikes on U.S. citizens, also allows legal challenges to the policy to move ahead.  The U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday dropped an effort to throw out a case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California, which claimed that the death strikes on the four Americans violated due process.  The DOJ had been arguing that the drone strikes were not confirmed and thus could not be the subject of a lawsuit, but Wednesday's admission scuttled that argument.

III. Closing Guantánamo Bay's Prison

In his speech President Obama is also expected to discuss a final path towards closing the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.  During his 2007 campaign, the President promised to close that prison, a controversial legacy of President George W. Bush's administration.  But once elected, President Obama moved sluggishly.  Today Guantánamo Bay is still in operation and drawing criticism, albeit with less inmates than in 2008.

Guantanamo Bay
Human rights watchers have complained that the Guantánamo Bay proceedings are a sham.
[Image Source: Getty Images]

President Obama is expected to appoint a U.S. Department of State official to spearhead the effort to finish the closure.

IV. President Obama Says He Isn't Targeting Journalists

A final issue addressed in the President's speech was the issue of freedom of the press amidst the recent seizure of Associated Press phone records.  President Obama claimed the efforts weren't meant to target journalists -- only leakers.  He comments:

The Justice Department’s investigation of national security leaks offers a recent example of the challenges involved in striking the right balance between our security and our open society. As Commander-in Chief, I believe we must keep information secret that protects our operations and our people in the field. To do so, we must enforce consequences for those who break the law and breach their commitment to protect classified information. But a free press is also essential for our democracy. I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable.

Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs. Our focus must be on those who break the law. That is why I have called on Congress to pass a media shield law to guard against government over-reach. I have raised these issues with the Attorney General, who shares my concern. So he has agreed to review existing Department of Justice guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters, and will convene a group of media organizations to hear their concerns as part of that review. And I have directed the Attorney General to report back to me by July 12th.

Associate Press
President Obama's Justice Department stands accused of spying on AP offices and staffers.
[Image Source: Getty Images]
 
The President's proposed "Media Shield" law is currently seeing contentious debate in Congress.

Sources: The White House, The New York Times



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RE: typical
By ninelite on 5/23/2013 8:31:08 PM , Rating: 2
Seems to me that they are testing people's tolerant and keep pushing the boundaries. Not that they just find out these drone attacks are backfiring. They want to kill a few US citizen "terrorists" and release the information to see people's reaction.

If general public is okay with it, then they will start to kill a lot more. If general public is not happy, they will kill a few here and there in secret or in public until people are used to it.

Remember the massive anti war protest during the Vietnam War & Korean War? Has the US stop going to war since then? Are there any massive anti war protest now?


RE: typical
By BRB29 on 5/24/2013 7:36:47 AM , Rating: 3
You do realize that the US is the only country take the fights off our borders right?
You also realize that the US is the only country that is not suffering from massive terrorism right?

If you check other countries' news, you will find out how often it happens. This is not some conspiracy anymore. It is real. They have been trying to bring it within our borders for decades.


RE: typical
By othercents on 5/24/2013 8:26:51 AM , Rating: 1
You forget that we don't have borders with any Muslim country and there is no Muslim country on our continent. The US is safer because of the level of difficulty to get here, but not immune.

During a time of war when you are trying to take out the leadership then drone attack is fine. Otherwise, I'm not sure if doing it on terrorists outside of war.


RE: typical
By BRB29 on 5/24/2013 9:18:00 AM , Rating: 3
Clearly, you did not realize there are planes now. It's also obvious there's millions of Moslems here also.

You can say the US is safer from conventional warfare because of the oceans the separated us.

quote:
During a time of war when you are trying to take out the leadership then drone attack is fine. Otherwise, I'm not sure if doing it on terrorists outside of war.

What is your definition of war? because it's clear they've already taken it to us for decades. It's unfortunate that news of catching potential terrorists are not pushed by the media as opposed to news about a drone attack.

It's hard for any of us to judge whether each drone strike is right sitting here behind a computer reading a news article from an obvious bias author. I'm telling you from my actual experience from seeing it myself in the past. It takes substantial evidence and intel before any general/director will call a strike. Regardless if it is an order from HQ, leaders are expected to have moral judgement instead of blindly following orders. You also wouldn't believe how much visual information we get during the operation. The drone strike is a small part of the operation. We usually have at least multiple teams on the ground to confirm target, activity, and civilians nearby. It is usually monitored for days to weeks before a drone strike is approved to avoid collateral damage. There's also back up plans to ensure mission success. At any time, the mission can be called off by an operator on the ground that will supercede command authority. It's not like the movies guys.


RE: typical
By othercents on 5/24/2013 10:47:49 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Clearly, you did not realize there are planes now.

I said the level of difficulty, I didn't say it was impossible. It is much more difficult to get to the US undetected than Europe. In Europe you can actually sail around the coast and come into the country undetected.

quote:
It's also obvious there's millions of Moslems here also.

Muslim is the correct spelling. Yes, My wife is a Muslim also, so yeah there are Muslims here, but that doesn't make them terrorists or even part of the radical movement.

quote:
because it's clear they've already taken it to us for decades.

Who would be considered "they"? Is that all Muslims? Decades? Do you mean since the Gulf War in 1990 which was mandated by the UN or the attack on the World Trade Center on 2001?

The reality is that every current conflict is based on previous American intervention. Each drone strike, even if successfully eliminating the target, just produces more radical Muslims. Why are we hell bent on being the peace keepers of the world especially in disputes that are centuries old?


RE: typical
By BRB29 on 5/24/2013 11:08:31 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
I said the level of difficulty, I didn't say it was impossible. It is much more difficult to get to the US undetected than Europe. In Europe you can actually sail around the coast and come into the country undetected.


When millions have made it here, the significance of that extra difficulty is insignificant.

quote:
Muslim is the correct spelling. Yes, My wife is a Muslim also, so yeah there are Muslims here, but that doesn't make them terrorists or even part of the radical movement.

Yes, and so is moslem. So your wife is moslem and you don't even know the word moslem is correct? lol that's just ignorance.
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Moslem
I never said all moslems are part of the radical movement. But certainly, most global terrorist activities are by them.

quote:
Who would be considered "they"? Is that all Muslims? Decades? Do you mean since the Gulf War in 1990 which was mandated by the UN or the attack on the World Trade Center on 2001?

Actually it started before that. The WTC in 2001 is a successful terrorist attack. There has actually been several other attempts to blow it up before that. I'll let you research that info since you are ignorant to actual events.

quote:
The reality is that every current conflict is based on previous American intervention. Each drone strike, even if successfully eliminating the target, just produces more radical Muslims. Why are we hell bent on being the peace keepers of the world especially in disputes that are centuries old?

Not true. The middle east has been hot since well...too long. Did you somehow forgot the crusades and all other conflict besides post WW2?
WW1 was not caused by the US. WW2 is caused by the allies(mostly uk and france) demanding too much reparation.
If we want to trace back, everything was caused by events before the US even existed. The US has only been globally active post WW2.


RE: typical
By othercents on 5/24/2013 11:25:45 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
A Muslim in Arabic means "one who gives himself to God," and is by definition, someone who adheres to Islam. By contrast, a Moslem in Arabic means "one who is evil and unjust" when the word is pronounced, as it is in English, Mozlem with a z.

By Arabic definition the difference is determined by your level of respect for that religion. Hence the reason why Muslim is the preferred use and the correct spelling.


RE: typical
By BRB29 on 5/24/2013 11:52:23 AM , Rating: 2
According to the english dictionary, they are both the same. Since I speak english, i will go with the dictionary. I'm not trying to be ignorant. I just don't care what a word mean to other people as it means different things to different people. Apparently, some Muslims/moslems/mozlems think killing people was way to sit next to Allah and enjoy 75 virgins.
My roommate is moslem/muslim he can 2 shiz less because he doesn't expect me to be overly sensitive about every little detail over his religion.


RE: typical
By Reclaimer77 on 5/24/2013 7:16:10 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Each drone strike, even if successfully eliminating the target, just produces more radical Muslims.


Okay I keep hearing how terrorism is all Americas fault. Even though it was employed thousands of years ago, but I digress.

So when a suicide bomber blows up 40+ people in Yemen or Pakistan and kills his own people: Not Americans, not soldiers, but just random local citizens....what, they still get to claim that's because of some U.S involvement somewhere?

And what about the families of those killed and the survivors missing limbs and being scarred for life, do they just go "Oh well, it was the Great Satan's fault somehow"?

I mean seriously, the logic that we've caused global Islamic terrorism or that it's all just a response to "Imperialist" policies of the West needs to be seriously questioned. When I see someone blow up their own people in some cafe or school crossing, I can't logically see how that's directed at America. Or that it's a reasonable response to ANYTHING!

There have been thousands of successful terrorist attacks since 9-11, and the majority of them haven't even been directed at American people or assets. They're murdering their own people mostly! Can someone make sense to me that this is the result of us "producing radical Muslims"? People who randomly kill others, even in countries that have NOTHING to do with the War on Terror, is the result of us making terrorists?


RE: typical
By Reclaimer77 on 5/24/2013 7:23:05 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pak...


Oh was this also the result of America "producing" terrorists? Shooting a little girl in the head because she dared be a female and speak her mind?


RE: typical
By Flunk on 5/24/2013 9:22:52 AM , Rating: 2
Neither of these things are true, a lot of other nations fight wars overseas. The UK, France, Canada, Australia and many other countries are involved in overseas conflicts. Also, the incidence of terrorism is lower or similar in many other countries on earth.

Canada for example only shares a border with the US so they only need to worry about illegal US immigrants (which is not a big problem) and our excellent trading relationship with the US. Domestic terrorism is hardly an issue, in fact most of Canada's anti-terrorism budget is spent foiling plots to terrorize the US.


RE: typical
By BRB29 on 5/24/2013 9:54:32 AM , Rating: 2
You're not comparing fairly

Canada has barely a military, hardly a global presence, and got more problems with bear attacks than international conflicts. They honestly depend on the US for military protection.

The US is the wealthiest country in the world by far. It is involved in nearly every conflict, fund most of the UN, has directly targeted Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks. We're pretty much the target for terrorism. We are everything these terrorists are against especially when we created the whole Israel conflict after WW2.

If you compare us to the UK, we're doing vastly better.

We were stupid to think we could right wrongs in the past. But the effects of those decisions are here now and we have to deal with it.


RE: typical
By TSS on 5/25/13, Rating: 0
RE: typical
By DougF on 5/25/2013 12:20:46 PM , Rating: 3
Selective memory at work here...I lived in Europe in the 80's and remember quite well the terrorism in England, Ireland, Germany, Italy, etc. I helped launch the retaliatory raid on Libya in 1986 in response to terrorism.
As for why others do not have terrorist incidents, the US, as the world leader (whether you like it or not) takes the brunt of the attacks. It's part of our role in securing the world's air and sea lanes so all nations may prosper. We understand the nature of being a leader, it's to take on the responsibility and to ensure the world doesn't descend into world war once again. We saw that modernized warfare evolving from WWI and WWII is entirely too destructive and we will NOT allow it to happen again, even if it means sacrificing our own on a regular basis. I say we will NOT, because we CAN, we have the most powerful military and economy on the planet, so we get to make the rules to ensure the planet's tranquility. You want to be in charge? You want a voice in the rules? Take responsibility. Go out there and ensure the air and sea lanes are open to commerce. Get off your duff and go out there into the world and put yourself at risk. I did for 21 years, 9 months and 17 days.
Now, your list is incomplete and inaccurate. Denmark and other European nations have suffered terroristic incidents, France had several killings of Jews, Denmark had cartoonists in hiding from terroristic threats, etc, etc.
Next, mass killings DO happen in other parts of the world, including Europe. Wake up, start applying the same definitions you use on the US to the rest of the world.
Last, America does NOT live in constant fear. You have been watching too much television news. We go about our business every day, terror threat or not. We visit, travel, go out to dinner, see movies, ball games, etc and do NOT cower from any threat of terror.
YOU may cower in your home, draw the blinds, and pray the evil doesn't come across your threshold, we believe in going out and killing it first, wherever it may be incubating. If that means using UAVs to take out terror leaders, even Americans who would plot against their own nation, then so be it. I'm not a fan of President Obama, but I watched his speech in it's entirety and I like much of what he had to say. We will not stand idly by and let anyone, ANYONE, plot our destruction without reaping the consequences. We WILL reach out and touch those who plot our demise with every tool at our disposal, as WE think it is right. It is our RIGHT, and we will execute (pun intended) that right at every opportunity.
Yeah, my post may sound jingoistic, but until some other nation gets off their lazy asses and puts their lives and national treasure on the line, we get to make the decisions. That's why Britain is one of our staunchest allies, as a former world-spanning empire, they understand what's at stake. They know there is a cost associated with world-keeping, but the cost is worth it, if we can keep the specters of world war at bay, even if it means regional conflicts to take out the threats to the rest of the world. That's the reality of today's international politics, you don't like it? Get YOUR national spending on defense up to match the US's and start taking over that responsibility. Put your youth and national treasure at risk, THEN, come talk to me about what YOU want the world to look like. Put up or shut up.


RE: typical
By superflex on 5/28/2013 1:40:24 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Mass shootings like newtown and bombings like boston DO NOT HAPPEN in the largest parts of europe. If we look over the past 2 decades:

In your eyes, the Norwegian nut job who killed all the kids on the island never happened.
Try removing your head from your ass mate.


RE: typical
By maugrimtr on 5/24/2013 8:31:21 AM , Rating: 2
Agreed. Admitting to four American deaths by drones (where only one was an actual target!) is the ultimate test of public will. If the pending cases fail, or Congress fails to enact limits on POTUS authority, then the precedent will be decided: Drone strikes on US citizens are legal.


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