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Obama to give much-anticipated speech on terrorism, drones

CNN
Sunday, May 19, 2013 - 11:52am

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."
 

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