News / USA

US Officially Acknowledges Drone Strike Killings

FILE- photograph of an unmanned U.S. Predator B drone, taken November 8, 2011.
FILE- photograph of an unmanned U.S. Predator B drone, taken November 8, 2011.
The Obama administration on Wednesday formally acknowledged the killing of four Americans in drone strikes. This came on the eve of a speech by President Barack Obama about the legal principles, since 2009, supporting use of drones against terrorist suspects, and about detention policies.
The use of drone warfare and targeted killings, including of Americans helping al-Qaida or affiliates, stirred major controversy during President Obama's first term and continues in his second.
After an intense review he ordered, Obama has been moving toward a major speech to provide a fuller explanation of his policies, and demonstrate he is fulfilling pledges for more transparency.
In his State of the Union address, he said the United States will continue to use "a range of capabilities" against terrorists, as a way to avoid sending tens of thousands of troops to confront al-Qaida and affiliates.
He signaled that Americans and Congress would hear more about, what he called, a "durable and legal policy framework."
"In the months ahead, I will continue to engage Congress 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," said President Obama.

Ahead of Thursday's speech, White House press secretary Jay Carney declined to discuss specifics, but said  Obama recognizes the importance of clarity and has tried to meet the high bar he set for himself on transparency.
"It is one around which he believes there have been and continue to be legitimate questions asked.  He is very concerned about the need to put an architecture in place that governs counterterrorism policy for now and into the future," said Carney.
On the eve of the speech, the Obama administration acknowledged for the first time that four American citizens have been killed in drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan.
One of those was Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical Muslim cleric killed in Yemen in 2011. The administration said three others killed, including Awlaki's son, were not "specifically targeted by the United States."
Attorney General Eric Holder and other administration officials have already discussed in considerable detail much of what Obama is likely to say.  
At Northwestern University in 2012, Holder said the U.S. government has clear legal authority to act against individuals posing an imminent lethal threat, including Americans who take up arms against the United States.
"When such individuals take up arms against this country, and join al-Qaida in plotting attacks designed to kill their fellow Americans, there may be only one realistic and appropriate response.  We must take steps to stop them - in full accordance with the Constitution.  In this hour of danger, we simply cannot afford to wait until deadly plans are carried out - and we will not," said Holder.

At Britain's Oxford University, then-Defense Department General Counsel Jeh Johnson said President Obama insists that U.S. policy be based on clear legal principles.
"President Obama - himself a lawyer and a good one - has insisted that our efforts in pursuit of this enemy stay firmly rooted in conventional legal principles," said Johnson. "For, in our efforts to destroy and dismantle al-Qaida, we cannot dismantle our laws and our values, too."
On detention policy, President Obama is likely to reiterate his determination to close the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  
He has acknowledged disappointment in failing to do so during his first term, largely blaming opposition from U.S. lawmakers.
Laura Pitter is a counterterrorism adviser with Human Rights Watch.
"We're hoping that in the speech he makes clear that he is still committed to that and perhaps will start transferring some of the detainees out of that facility, especially to Yemen, where the largest majority of the detainees currently slated for release are from," said Pitter.
Pitter says a hunger strike by detainees, and methods used to force-feed prisoners, put the Guantanamo issue back on the political agenda ahead of Obama's speech.  
She says  Obama could use waiver authority to bypass some congressional restrictions on transferring detainees, and end indefinite detention without trial, but will need to re-engage with Congress.  

On drone policy, Reuters and other news organizations quoted unidentified U.S. officials as saying the Obama administration may transfer some drone operations from the CIA to the Pentagon.
This has been a major issue of debate within the administration.  One outcome of such a step would be opening drone operations to greater congressional scrutiny.  It is not known if Obama will announce this on Thursday.

You May Like

Video Obama: Action on Climate Change 'Economic, Security Imperative'

President spoke to reporters on sidelines of UN Climate Summit outside Paris, where leaders are working to agree on binding measures

IMF Bets on China’s Resolve to Reform

IMF announcement already raising questions about just how much Beijing is committed to such reforms

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Maria from: USA
May 22, 2013 11:52 PM
the scumbags that are targeted by our drones... are not "Americans" but Islamist scumbags who managed to fool our asylum laws... to attack us from within... or to try to tranquilize us with rhetoric of Islam is peace...

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs