President Barack Obama will deliver a major address Tuesday in Florida to explain the policies his administration established over the past eight years on suspected terrorists, while making a push for the transparency his critics have said for years does not exist.
Obama will explain in his speech, being delivered at the military's Central Command headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, also the home of Special Operations Command, the legal and policy rationale used by the administration to decide whether terrorists should be killed, interrogated, or detained, reports The Los Angeles Times, which notes the president will be defending his national security record.
Obama will also argue on Tuesday to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, to continue a ban on torture, and for the United States to respect the civil rights of Muslim-Americans, reports USA Today. The president is also expected to explain his strategy of putting local forces on the front lines to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria while limiting U.S. troop deployments to those areas.
Meanwhile, news and watchdog organizations have criticized the Obama administration for years for its lack of transparency, as he has used the Espionage Act to investigate government leaks more than all presidents combined since its passage in 1917, The Guardian reported last year.
"It's his final message to the nation on what he's done and how he views these issues," Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security advisor, told reporters Monday, denying the address was being made to send a message to President-elect Donald Trump. "It's something he would've done no matter who won the election."
On Monday, the administration released documents offering a comprehensive view on the White House's legal justification for several actions it has taken over the years, including a 66-page report explaining the"use of military force and related national security operations."
It also explains the administration's use of a 2001 law used to fight Al Qaeda as the legal basis for its pursuit of other terrorist organizations, including ISIS.
"We have attempted to explain, consistent with our national security and the proper functioning of the executive branch, when and why the United States conducts such operations, the legal basis and policy parameters for such operations, and how such operations have unfolded, so that the American people can better understand them," Obama wrote in an a memo, urging future presidential administrations to update the report yearly.
Obama issued a memorandum encouraging future administrations to update the report publicly at least once a year.
"Even if the document does not specifically target the incoming Trump administration, it takes an important step towards establishing clarity over the legal and policy framework regarding the use of force," Rachel Stohl, director of a task force on drone policy for the nonpartisan Stimson Center, told The Times. However, she warned that more work remains toward transparency.
In July, the White House admitted that from 64-116 civilians were killed in drone strikes and hits from manned aircraft dating from the beginning of Obama's time, and a month later listed the administration's legal guidelines for determining who should be targeted and why.
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