Obama to give much-anticipated speech on terrorism, drones
May 19th, 2013
12:33 PM ET
2 years ago

Obama to give much-anticipated speech on terrorism, drones

(CNN) – President Barack Obama will deliver long-promised remarks Thursday explaining the legal framework behind the decisions he makes to use drones against terrorist threats and further detail the administration’s counterterrorism policy, according to a White House official.

In his speech at the National Defense University, the president also plans to review the state of threats the country currently faces and efforts to close down Guantanamo Bay's detention facility, the official said.

After facing a barrage of criticism from both parties about the administration's secretive drone policy, Obama pledged in his February State of the Union address to work with Congress on the issue to ensure "that our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances."

He also vowed to make the administration's efforts "more transparent to the American people and to the world."

A controversial memo leaked from the Justice Department in February confirmed the Obama administration considers drone attacks legal when it entails American citizens involved with al Qaeda or one of its affiliates overseas. While the policy paper had been shown to the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees last June, it only became public earlier this year.

Separately, the Obama admiration faced more pressure from Senate Republicans in March to further detail its drone policy when it comes to hypothetical situations involving suspected American terrorists on U.S. soil.

After a 13 hour talking filibuster from Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who demanded answers on whether the administration considers a drone attack in such suspects legal, Attorney General Eric Holder responded in a three paragraph letter, saying the president does not have the authority to use a drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on U.S. soil.

The use of armed drones to target and kill suspected terrorists has increased dramatically during the Obama administration. But the president said he struggles with the tactic to target terrorists.

"That's something that you have to struggle with," Obama said in a CNN interview at the White House conducted for the documentary "Obama Revealed: The man, The President" by this reporter. He continued, "if you don't, then it's very easy to slip into a situation in which you end up bending rules thinking that the ends always justify the means. That's not been our tradition. That's not who we are as a country."


Filed under: President Obama • Terrorism
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Gurgyl

    This president is the best and smart...

    May 19, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  2. Marie MD

    We have home grown terrorists. They are the timothy mcveighs, the clinic bombers, the repugs in congress and last but not least the tea trolls.

    May 19, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  3. Pete

    Please quit this crap about secret drone deals because republicans as well as democrates sit on most military conneced committes,tell me I'm wrong..They see and hear everything that goes down and if they don't who's fault is that and I'm sure you'd be screaming if Pres.Obama did as much behind closed doors as Bush,Cheney did in their terms!!

    May 19, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  4. rla

    Hmmmm Just who is anticipating this???? Obama thinks everything is solved by a tele-prompter- Guess what it takes real world experience to be president and you still don't have any and it shows!

    May 19, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  5. remotewarfare

    "After a 13 hour talking filibuster from Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who demanded answers on whether the administration considers a drone attack in such suspects legal, Attorney General Eric Holder responded in a three paragraph letter, saying the president does not have the authority to use a drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on U.S. soil."

    This is just wrong. The 3-page memo was written in response to a question by Paul which preceded the filibuster, and prior to the filibuster Holder had already testified in response to questions from Sen Cruz that this was not the case. Holder sent a one line response following the filibuster reiterating what he had already told Cruz.

    May 19, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  6. optimistmiser

    People are more interested in the power ball numbers than any lies or half truths that Obama spins.

    May 19, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  7. remotewarfare

    "After a 13 hour talking filibuster from Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who demanded answers on whether the administration considers a drone attack in such suspects legal, Attorney General Eric Holder responded in a three paragraph letter, saying the president does not have the authority to use a drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on U.S. soil."

    This is just wrong. Holden's three paragraph memo was written in response to a question from Paul prior to the filibuster (and said he saw no case where they could be justified today, but hypothetically could see future scenarios but would have to evaluate them should they emerge) and before the filibuster Holder had already responded to questioning from Sen Cruz stating that RPAs would not be used on Us soil against those not actively engaging in combat. Holder responded to the filibuster with a one-line response reiterating what he already told Cruz before the filibuster started. Seriously CNN, get your act together.

    May 19, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  8. Knight NI

    Separately, the Obama admiration faced more pressure from Senate Republicans in March to further detail its drone policy when it comes to hypothetical situations involving suspected American terrorists on U.S. soil.

    That's the way to EDIT

    May 19, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  9. lIb

    i agree with the president. If you join the al queda, then you are NO longer an American citizen. repubs would agree with this also if Bush had said it.

    May 19, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  10. waitnonasunnyday

    "When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall - think of it, always." - Gandhi

    May 19, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  11. Hector

    It saddens me to see that this president is turning into a Hugo Chavez type. This administration has created a culture of intimidation, targeting any political groups and media types caught criticizing the policies of this President. This is exactly what Hugo Chavez did in Venezuela. It is a very scary road to travel down.

    May 19, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  12. just sayin

    terrorism? what terrorism?? obama doesn't believe in terrorism. he's all about work place violence. 98% of the time involving muslim islamic radicals but when does reality ever protrude in the make believe world of leftists like obama?

    May 19, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  13. Mainscribe

    Checks and Balances? Laws? You mean like the checks and balances he used to ram Obamacare down America's throat? Law's? Like the law the IRS uses to intimidate and terrorize American citizens?

    Mr. Obama is the Emperor that has no clothes.

    May 19, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  14. John Miller

    I'd be a lot more interested if the President spoke about IRS terrorism and his personal legion of drones.

    May 19, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  15. andi lee

    Interesting, to say the least, as I just finished reading an international article relating to "millions of ordinary decent folk are now living in chaos as a result of U.S. and Western interference in their countries -as part of exporting 'freedom, democracy and stability',..." Exactly, how much taxpayor money is leaving the U.S.? "We the people of the U.S." should have a say as to how that money is spent.

    May 19, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  16. esu589

    For or against

    May 19, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  17. derykhouston

    It is very hard to watch a good man try and defend a disgusting and fruitless policy. I like Obama. But the policy of using drones to murder people is so obviously wrong on every level includig the question of legality. And international law is sacred, it should not be played with and this is what drones do.
    The whole practice shows how inhumane we are. That we are quite willing to accept collateral damage and the deaths of children and innocent people. This is what is disgusting. It is not who we should be as human beings. I hope that Obama will see the light and admit that he has made a grave errror. Otherwise the drones will be his legacy.......how his children will see him in years to come.

    May 19, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  18. Robert

    I am a Rand Paul type of guy and I really appreciate the President saying something about this. Even if it isn't everything I want. I appreciate him being a stand up guy...

    May 19, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  19. derykhouston

    Obama has made a grave error by embracing the use of drones to murder people. His children will remember these acts of inhumanity. I like Obama. But history will slaughter him on this one. Internatioal law is everything and the use of drones screams out loud and clear that this is not right. These acts of barbarism will be Obama's legacy.
    It is hard to imagine how someone as smart as Obama could have made such a fatal mistake. The number of civilians killed by these drones disgusts the world. It smacks of evil.
    I can't stand watching someone as good as Obama try to defend this ugly policy. If he was an evil man it would be easier. But he is a good man who has blundered into a disgusting trap.
    I hope that he will admit his mistake and take these instrumets of death of the table.

    May 19, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  20. well

    war crimes can't be just explained away.

    May 19, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  21. Ramon cortez(not Hispanic)

    With everyday life improving,positive things happening!why do Republicans continue with"Sour grapes"!get with it,let's have a POSITIVE AMERICA!!

    May 19, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |