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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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What? We thought this was Dailytech?
By Belard on 5/23/2013 8:59:19 PM , Rating: 2
Just rename the site NeoconTech and call it a day. Change the site colors to GOP-RED already.

There is no TECH in this article, its about policy (which has been in effect since Bush signed the Patriot Act).

When the govt. is talking about regulating the internet, then such an article belongs on a TECH website. Going off subject from the site visitors is okay, it happens. If this site is a free for all... then.

Lets have serious discussions about erectile dysfunction and the number of middle wage white men who can't get it up who are mad at the world. Solutions and more. We have pills... and shots, which I think its scary to think about... putting a needle into your penis! For those with severe problems, a bionic mechanic or pump can be installed to allow the man to perform. Batteries are not included.




RE: What? We thought this was Dailytech?
By Dorkyman on 5/23/2013 9:26:06 PM , Rating: 1
I guess it makes sense that libs (oops, "progressives," sorry) might have a need to talk about erectile issues.


By Cloudie on 5/24/2013 12:31:55 PM , Rating: 3
Are conservatives allowed to talk about erections (let alone have them)? Isn't it some kind of sin? ;)


RE: What? We thought this was Dailytech?
By Belard on 5/24/2013 1:02:30 PM , Rating: 2
Do you have some sort of brain-damaged idea thinking that being a Progressive / Liberal is a bad thing? That is what made America great... being the FIRST and being PROGRESSIVE with civil rights, religious freedom and not be a warm-mongering country.

My penis works just fine.


RE: What? We thought this was Dailytech?
By rountad on 5/24/2013 2:51:38 PM , Rating: 2
I personally think that ideological thinking like this is on a continuum and must be taken in context.

Context:
- our vast spending, especially on so many extra-Constitutional things
- our myriad nanny-state-type laws, like helmet and seatbelt laws, speed limits, drugs like marijuana being illegal, etc... that greatly limit our self-determination
- our ideas about funding government, like progressive income taxes, rather than a more use-tax orientation
etc...

And, when taken in this context, being "progressive" and wanting more laws, more intrusive government, more spending, etc...
then, yes, it's one of the worst things.

I don't want to work for someone else's idea of the common good that completely contradicts my own ideas. I just want to be left alone.


By Belard on 5/24/2013 3:26:46 PM , Rating: 2
By all means... if you wish to be left alone, move to Somalia. There, you have your utopia non-existent government.

Before I reply, mind you - a completely liberal or conservative govt is NOT good. A balance is needed for proper functionality of a country. This country DOES NOT BELONG to the republicans.

"- our vast spending, especially on so many extra-Constitutional things"

True... we spent more on military than the next 12 countries combined. We have far more super-aircraft carriers than we need. The smaller carriers are far cheaper. The Army says we have more than enough tanks, but congress(R) keeps buying more. But under Obama, in the past 3 years, spending has been vastly reduced compared to Bush. (note: Spending and debt are two different things. Obama had also put the wars on our books properly - Remember when we were sold the Iraq scam to cost us $50~80billion? And maybe a few dozen deaths)

- our myriad nanny-state-type laws, like helmet and seatbelt
laws, speed limits, drugs like marijuana being illegal,
No and Yes.
The war on drugs is stupid. Its a victim-less "crime". It costs us tax payers about $30,000 a year per person to have them behind bars. By all means, lock up the drug dealers. Marijuana should be sold in stores and the tax revenue would be helpful. Meth and Heroin should remain illegal to sell.
Note: in the OLD DAYS, Marijuana grows everywhere and hemp was used to make clothes and "paper". The wood paper industry paid to have laws changed to make hemp illegal.

Speed Limits and helmets are safety systems. It costs MONEY to clean up the mess from dead people. My bicycle helmet *DID* save my life when I crashed at 25mph. I broke some bones and destroyed my helmet. A $35 helmet saved about $20~30,000 in ER costs and bills. Speed Limits... again, idiots who speed causes crash. Everyone doing 65mph is safer than some doing 30 and others doing 50 and 90mphs on the same road. A few years ago, I'm doing 65mph. Some idiot barely avoided hitting me at 100MPH. Instead he slid infront of me and ping-ponged into the concrete crash barriers on both sides of the highway... I continued my merry way.

That idiot costs tax payers money to pickup his broken car and body. Again, move to countries with no laws for driving... they don't have much good roads since they don't collect taxes to build them.

- our ideas about funding government, like progressive income taxes, rather than a more use-tax orientation
Somethings from the govt are cheaper than for-profit. To think that "liberals like to spend money" is stupid. Look at actual spending and under Clinton and Obama, spending has been LESS than under either Bush and of course Reagan. Our tax dollars pays for police, firefighters, roads, libraries, schools, military and more. Waste spending is stupid... that is caused by corruption.

Want to stop that? It needs to be done. Limited terms (no for-life congressmen, etc). No private meetings with lobbyist. No direct campaign donations (ie: nobody can donate to a specific candidate) - that becomes I scratch your back, you scratch mine issue... especially with judges.

I see posts on the NET about how wasteful NASA is... (which does provide tons of high-skilled jobs)... yet the budget for running air conditioning for the illegal Iraq War for our troops is HIGHER than NASA (by year). Not saying that they don't need A/C... but the $3Trillion dollar lie has costs us lots of MONEY and DEATH.


"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad














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