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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 Ammohunt on 5/23/2013 9:35:23 PM , Rating: 2
Have you ever been to America? Because no offense but your opinions and views of America represent the typical ignorance of my country and its people that is propagated by state run media in Europe and elsewhere. Islam and its culture cannot coexist with western culture and values without westerners becoming slaves to Allah. There is no such thing as basic human rights not derived from Allah in Islamic society. The war against terror is a war of containment and suppression that will go on until either Islam has a reformation or the west loses its will to fight.


RE: typical
By TeXWiller on 5/24/2013 2:13:23 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
the typical ignorance of my country and its people that is propagated by state run media in Europe and elsewhere
The state run media, whatever little from it is left is non-partisan by law, or echoing the commercial news distributers, which are generally seeing terrorists around the corners as much as the US media does.
quote:
Islam and its culture cannot coexist with western culture and values without westerners becoming slaves to Allah.
That sentence is usually used by those who want to destroy all competing ideologies and religions. The others just keep on living with other peoples as they always have been.
quote:
There is no such thing as basic human rights not derived from Allah in Islamic society.
Islamic, Christian and Jewish societies can be secularist as many countries have demonstrated. It's just the exremist minorities who have never accepted this. Formulation of human rights have had many religious influences in the past. It's no wonder that people who seek new sense of identities in the globalizing, post-colonialist world want deny such foreign influences.
quote:
the west loses its will to fight.
For an exremist, we being ourselves is fighting against them. We don't lose our will to be ourselves as long as we don't lose our self-respect. The strikes lessen our sense of self-respect.


RE: typical
By Ammohunt on 5/24/2013 12:27:10 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
That sentence is usually used by those who want to destroy all competing ideologies and religions. The others just keep on living with other peoples as they always have been.


You are actually going to try to lay that on an American living in the original melting pot of people and ideas? Very hard to understand the American way when you live in a European Mono-culture.

quote:
Islamic, Christian and Jewish societies can be secularist as many countries have demonstrated. It's just the extremist minorities who have never accepted this. Formulation of human rights have had many religious influences in the past. It's no wonder that people who seek new sense of identities in the globalizing, post-colonialist world want deny such foreign influences.


Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews have a myriad examples of successful secular governments. Islam has one shining example in a sea of Islamic republics that being Turkey which i feel if pushed would go full bore theocracy in a second.

They can deny such foreign influences they want; one requirement don't fly planes into our buildings ok? because you might not like the outcome.


RE: typical
By michael67 on 5/26/2013 10:45:30 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
There is no such thing as basic human rights not derived from Allah in Islamic society.

Let me ask you then how Iranians will see use from there point of view.

We the west (Mainly the US and UK) have done everything we could to make them mistrust and hate us, and now we are complaining that they are untrustworthy towards us.

- First in 53 we robed them of there democratic elected president Mossadeq, by using terrorist tactics, the thing we accuse Iran of now.
- Then supported for years the dictatorship of the Shah, ware under his ruling many people disappeared.
- Then we (mainly the US) supported Saddam Hoessein (a man that used chemical weapons and invaded Iran) in the war between Iraq en Iran.
- And then after they had noting to do with the 9/11 attacks, called them the "the axis of evil", yeah bin called the "the axis of evil" would make me wane be friendly with you.

Yeah its all there fault!


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