Obama to Give Legal Rationale for Drone Policy

Sunday, 19 May 2013 02:50 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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President Barack Obama plans to speak this week about his plans to bring the drone program, the prison at Guantanamo Bay, and other counterterrorism policies under the legal framework he outlined in his State of the Union address earlier this year.

Obama will speak Thursday at the National Defense University and, according to a White House spokesman, will also review the state of threats that are faced as al-Qaida has weakened while other dangers have increased, The Washington Post reported.

An anonymous White House spokesman who detailed Obama's speech said the president has used "all tools of national power in an aggressive campaign to degrade and ultimately defeat al-Qaida," while insisting "we enlist our values in this fight and act in line with the rule of law."

Thursday's speech is expected to be Obama's first step toward fulfilling a promise in the State of the Union address to ensure "not only that our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.”

Obama has found it difficult to reconcile the opinion he stated in a 2009 speech at the National Archives, in which he argued that national security interests do not need to conflict with human rights and the rule of law.

Since then, though, Obama has faced a great deal of criticism over how he implemented national security measures, including over the Justice Department's seizure of Associated Press journalists' phone records in an investigation of leaks concerning its anti-terror policy.

While Obama, upon taking office, banned torture as an interrogation technique and ordered the Guantanamo Bay prison to be closed, the facility remains open. He said last month he still wants to close the prison, but Congress opposes the move. The speech he plans to deliver Thursday was put on hold because of concerns over a prisoner hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay.

In addition, the first killing of a U.S. citizen through the use of a drone strike has cast a shadow on Obama's initial promises, and the drone program has become an important part of Obama's counterterrorism strategy.

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