Live Blog: Obama Outlines New Policies for Drones, Gitmo in Major Speech

A drone designed and constructed by Concepcion University and the Chilean army is seen during a flight test at Concepcion city

This is a live blog to discuss President Obama’s speech today at the National Defense University. The speech is scheduled for 2PM Eastern time. As I wrote in the morning post, Obama is expected to propose limits to the use of drones to assassinate suspected “terrorists” in places like Pakistan and Yemen.

Time Magazine’s Swampland Blog:

Obama’s speech is expected to reaffirm his national security priorities — from homegrown terrorists to killer drones to the enemy combatants held at the military-run detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — but make no new sweeping policy announcements. The White House has offered few clues on how the president will address questions that have dogged his administration for years and, critics say, given foreign allies mixed signals about U.S. intentions in some of the world’s most volatile areas.

Obama will try to refocus an increasingly apathetic public on security issues as his administration grapples with a series of unrelated controversies stemming from the attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups and government monitoring of reporters. His message will also be carefully analyzed by an international audience that has had to adapt to what counterterror expert Peter Singer described as the administration’s disjointed and often short-sighted security policies.

“He is really wresting with a broader task, which is laying out an overdue case for regularizing our counterterrorism strategy itself,” said Singer, director of the Brookings Institution’s 21st Century Security and Intelligence Center in Washington. “It’s both a task in terms of being a communicator, and a task in term of being a decider.”

The White House said Obama’s speech coincides with the signing of new “presidential policy guidance” on when the U.S. can use drone strikes, though it was unclear what that guidance entailed and whether Obama would outline its specifics in his remarks.

Do we really need to keep using the word “decider” now that Dubya is gone? Oh well…Time’s description of Obama’s remarks makes it sound like he’s not really going to make any real changes–just say some words. I hope that’s wrong.

Here’s USA Today’s take on the speech:

The White House said Obama “will discuss why the use of drone strikes is necessary, legal and just, while addressing the various issues raised by our use of targeted action.”

Obama has also approved new “policy guidance” that sets out “standards under which we take lethal action,” the White House said.

The president “will also discuss how to balance securing our country and protecting our civil liberties at home,” said the statement.

That includes new steps Obama plans to take to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, a frequent target of criticism from civil libertarians. Some detainees at the prison are in the midst of a hunger strike, protesting their conditions.

Obama had pledged to close the facility during his first year in office. But his efforts ran afoul of congressional Republicans who opposed trials of terrorism suspects in the United States, and other countries that refused to take some prisoners.

NBC News’ First Read has a little more:

A White House official, per NBC’s Shawna Thomas, says that the president’s speech also will discuss better securing U.S. diplomatic facilities (after the 2012 Benghazi attack), balancing security while protecting civil liberties at home (see the leak investigations), and stating his desire to close the Guantanamo Bay prison (an action which Congress opposes). Don’t be surprised if Obama says something along the lines of, “We will never send another detainee to Gitmo” as a way to express his willingness to close the facility. And don’t be surprised if he addresses — head on — the Justice Department’s seizure of reporters’ phone records in its prosecution of national security leaks. Obama delivers his remarks at 2:00 pm ET at the National Defense University in DC.

For further reference, here is the letter Attorney General Holder wrote to Congress acknowledging the drone assassinations of four American citizens and Charlies Savage’s article about it.

At Wired’s Danger Room Blog, Spencer Ackerman offers 4 Questions Obama’s Big National Security Speech Should Answer.

I’ll do my best to keep up with the speech, but I would greatly appreciate your contributions too. You can watch the speech on-line at

162 Comments on “Live Blog: Obama Outlines New Policies for Drones, Gitmo in Major Speech”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    I hope this isn’t going to be “just words.”

    • Beata says:

      The Decider has started his “wide-ranging national security speech”. Right now he’s giving some background for people who have been asleep for the last decade or so.

  2. Fannie says:

    I’m late getting in………….listening now.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    I missed the very beginning. It sounds like Obama is just enumerating changes to national security policy that have been made after 9/11.

    • bostonboomer says:

      He thinks we compromised our values “in some cases.”

      He has banned torture, expanded consultations w/ congress and obeyed the “rule of law.”

  4. bostonboomer says:

    We are safer now, and we are getting out of the wars. But we still face risks from terrorism, “from Benghazi to Boston.”

  5. Fannie says:

    we’ve spent over a trillion dollars on wars…………..

  6. bostonboomer says:

    Today’s threats are different. We have spent over a trillion dollars on wars, exploding our budget. Thousands of soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice or brought the shadows of combat back home. America is at a crossrds.

  7. bostonboomer says:

    I’m looking for the prepared text.

  8. bostonboomer says:

    We face more localized threats like in Benghazi. Also kidnapping and radicalized individuals in US>

  9. Beata says:

    Threat today is “more diffuse”; more “localized”. Kidnapping, etc.

  10. bostonboomer says:

    Now he’s calling the Ft. Hood shooting terror, even tho Repubs keep saying he called it “workplace violence.”

  11. bostonboomer says:

    We face terror threats much like what was happening before 9/11.

  12. Beata says:

    Local terrorist operatives playing a larger role now.

  13. Fannie says:

    Home grown terrorism has grown, he talks about the groups here over the years.

  14. bostonboomer says:

    He says much of what we face is related to Islamist ideology, but it’s based on a lie because we aren’t at war with Islam.

    But we are dropping drones on muslim countries…. (my words)

  15. Fannie says:

    He says we are not at war with islam……………hey couldn’t prove that by the christian republicans who have been spewing their hate in this country.

  16. bostonboomer says:

    We must work w/other nations–Pakistan, Yemen, Mali…

  17. bostonboomer says:

    We’ve worked with Great Britain and Saudi Arabia…

  18. Fannie says:

    Exactly BB……..drones and other measures (keeping Gitmo open), and other measures to have our mark on other countries like Libya.

  19. bostonboomer says:

    Sometimes we can’t prosecute an imprison terrorists. It just isn’t practical because they are hiding in deserts, caves, places where the state lacks capacity or will to take action. We can send special forces for every terrorist. Some places it would pose profound risks to our troops and civilians or trigger international crisis.

  20. Beata says:

    We are “not at war with Islam”.

    We can’t rely on our own intelligence-gathering or military intervention alone. Stresses importance of shared counter-terrorism information with other countries.

  21. bostonboomer says:

    Getting bin Laden was a special case. And it has caused backlash in Pakistan.

  22. bostonboomer says:

    Now we get to the drones.

  23. bostonboomer says:

    Who is targeted and why? Legality? Civilian deaths? Accountability and morality.

  24. Beata says:

    Defends use of drone strikes: “Our actions are effective.” “These strikes have saved lives.” Also “these actions are legal”. “This is a just war.” But “this is not to say this ( meaning drone strikes? ) is always wise or moral.”

  25. The use of drones is heavily constrained???

  26. bostonboomer says:

    Had to run out for a min.

    He says we consult w/partners before drone strikes.

  27. Beata says:

    Drone strikes are “not to punish individuals”. Done as last resort.

  28. bostonboomer says:

    On civilian casualties, yes we have killed civilians–a risk that exists in every war.

  29. bostonboomer says:

    Whenever we can we capture terrorists, but we have to weigh the heartbreaking losses of civilians against the worse consequences of doing nothing.

  30. bostonboomer says:

    Terrorists target civilians and kill many more than drone strikes do.

  31. bostonboomer says:

    Drones are more accurate than planes and bombs, which cause people in these countries to see us as “occupying army.”

    ROFLOL. That’s what we are isn’t it?

  32. It’s not a bad speech but it kinda reminds me of Hillary’s AUMF speech.

  33. bostonboomer says:

    “We must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror’—but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts.”

  34. Beata says:

    Says civilian casualities have resulted from drone strikes, just as they do in conventional warfare. But “doing nothing is not an option”. Says even small military operations would result in more civilian casualities than drone strikes and could provoke war.

  35. bostonboomer says:

    The risks of military action in foreign lands does risk creating more enemies.

  36. bostonboomer says:

    Now he’s talking about the dangers of presidential power used in this way. He has insisted on strong oversight from Congress.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Congress briefed on every strike including targeting Anwar Al Awlaki. He doesn’t say anything about minor son.

  37. Strong oversight of all lethal action?????

  38. bostonboomer says:

    Shouldn’t use drones on US soil, but when US citizen goes overseas to plot against US, his citizenship should not serve as shield.

  39. bostonboomer says:

    Says Al Awlaki planned plot to blow up airplane over US.

  40. bostonboomer says:

    Killing people with drones is the hardest thing I do as President.

  41. Fannie says:

    Well of course, congress is briefed on all strikes……………

  42. Beata says:

    No drone strikes on US soil! Good. It is safe to go to my mailbox.

  43. bostonboomer says:

    Maybe we should establish a special court, but that would raise questions…

    Independent oversight in exec branch…another layer of bureaucracy.

    Looks forward to discussing options w/Congress. Well that’s the end of that then. Congress never does anything…

  44. bostonboomer says:

    Talking about pushing democracy in middle east, strengthen opposition in Syria (which may consist of terrorists….)

  45. bostonboomer says:

    We could be helping train security in other countries, building schools and otherwise creating “reservoirs of goodwill.”

  46. Allie says:

    Thank you for covering this – I can’t stand to listen to the guy.

    Frankly I think doing nothing is a valid option. What we are doing doesn’t help – it has the opposite effect. Pulling our armies the frack out would save more lives than killing suspects and anyone standing too close to them with drones.

    We are creating generations of enemies who will always hate us for as long as we exist on this earth. Maybe that’s the goal. Feeds the MIC.

  47. bostonboomer says:

    I am implementing every recommendation of those who investigated failings of Benghazi. Of course Congress will have to fund the extra security….

    • Fannie says:

      The problem is he can’t have military at those consulates, that’s a call for the other country, not the USA. In other words we can’t put foreign troops – willy nilly anywhere we want in other countries.

  48. bostonboomer says:

    We can’t ignore terrorism within our borders.

    Like peace marchers, environmental activists, Occupy….

  49. Fannie says:

    cost benefit anaylsis on “foreign charity” and it’s impact and our dislike of funds going out to other countries for training, education. etc.

  50. Now he’s talking about domestic terrorism/terrorism from within.

    Good!!!! Finally.

  51. Beata says:

    If we give countries enough foreign aid, they will forgive us our drone strikes.

  52. bostonboomer says:

    We need to work with the Muslim community.

    If he wants to do that, he’ll have to get the FBI to stop trying to recruit them as informants and entrapping their young men into fake terrorist plots.

  53. bostonboomer says:

    Privacy and civil liberties board?

  54. bostonboomer says:

    Talking about his prosecution of whistleblowers.

  55. bostonboomer says:

    A free press is essential. Journalists should not be at legal risk…

    Media shield law…

    The one he’s proposing reportedly puts the press more at risk than now.

  56. bostonboomer says:

    Talking about the AUMF. Can we fight terrorism without keeping US on perpetual wartime footing?

  57. bostonboomer says:

    “This war, like all wars, must end.” That brings him to detention of suspects.

  58. bostonboomer says:

    Guantanamo is a symbol for an American that flouts the rule of law.

  59. Fannie says:

    Holy crap, over million per prisoner at Gitmo, and couple more on top to keep the prison open.
    No person has ever escaped Super Max prison here……………right, lockdown 23/7……………… words.

  60. Hmm. I need to read Hillary’s memos on Gitmo and go back to the transcript of his Gitmo comments (here in this speech) and compare.

    And who is protesting with questions in the audience????

  61. bostonboomer says:

    Some one heckling. It seems to be one woman. Applause–I don’t know if that’s from audience or demonstrators.

  62. Fannie says:

    Yes ma’am…………… can speak, but you listen too.

  63. bostonboomer says:

    The applause seems to be from audience.

  64. Beata says:

    A woman is shouting something at Obama ( about Gitmo? ). I can’t hear what she’s saying. Seems she is not being dragged away by security.

    • Beata says:

      Obama says he is willing to cut the “young woman” who was shouting “some slack” because it is okay to be passionate about the issue.

      She is still shouting. I’m surprised she is being allowed to stay.

  65. bostonboomer says:

    How will we deal with Gitmo detainees who we know are guilty but the evidence isn’t there.

    Doesn’t our system say they go free then?

  66. Fannie says:

    The lady is from the audience, and want Gitmo closed today…………… do we, close it NOW.
    Force feeding detainees on hunger strike…………………the young lady is right, it is something to be passionate about…………………

  67. bostonboomer says:

    “I’m willing to cut the young lady some slack.”

    “Is this the American we want to leave our children?” We have shown we can prosecute terrorists in courts of law.

  68. bostonboomer says:

    She’s shouting again….

  69. bostonboomer says:

    “I’m going off script.”

    The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to. Obviously I do not agree and she obviously wasn’t listening to me. These are tough issues that we can’t gloss over.

  70. bostonboomer says:

    We face dangers far greater than al Qaeda. We have overcome slavery, fascism, etc. natural disasters…

  71. Tell me again how really resilient we are.

  72. What????? It’s over???

  73. bostonboomer says:

    I guess that was Medea Benjamin and she was asking about the 16-year-old boy who was killed. Which Obama didn’t address.

  74. bostonboomer says:

    Thanks everyone for helping. I thought we should take note this particular speech. We need to follow up and see whether he actually tries to push any of this stuff.

  75. Fannie says:

    Good Job BB………………

  76. Fannie says:

    Oh, was that lady a code pink or what?

    • Beata says:

      I imagine we will soon find out who she is. I am still surprised she was allowed to speak for as long as she did. Usually hecklers are quickly taken away. Wonder if she was an Obama plant to make it appear he is willing to listen to opposing viewpoints? ( That is my tinfoil hat theory. Now I need to go search for my ovaries. BBL. Maybe. )

  77. RalphB says:

    Just back from dentist with a clean bill of dental health. Thanks to BB and everyone for the blog and comments which kept me in the loop. 🙂


    3:06 P.M.What Next for Drone Program?
    Now that the speech is over, one of the big outstanding questions is just how transparent the Obama administration will be about drone strikes in the future. Will administration officials begin to publicly confirm strikes after they happen?

    There was no mention of this in the speech, and it is telling that the president did not mention the C.I.A. at all. It seems quite certain that past operations in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere are not going to be declassified anytime soon.

    Also, moving operations from the C.I.A. to the Pentagon does not automatically mean that the strikes will be publicly discussed. The Pentagon is carrying out a secret drone program in Yemen right now, and it is very difficult to get information about those operations.

    — Mark Mazzetti

  79. RalphB says:

    Chickenhaws Scum Saxby Chambliss: GOP Sen: Obama’s Counterterrorism Speech A Victory For Terrorists

    That douchenozzle has a lot of nerve.

  80. RalphB says:

    Charles Pierce: The President’s Tightrope Walk

    Charles liked his speech and this Obama quote is a winner.

    “I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate. And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further.”

    • bostonboomer says:

      Yeah, I liked that too, but Republicans won’t.

      • RalphB says:

        I think they’re trying to expand it and make it permanent in Congress now. A veto of that would be precious.

        • Oprecious, even. 😉

          I’ll believe it when it happens. (And give credit where due– That would be great to veto. )

          I’m confused. I thought in her outgoing memos Hillary outlined steps for him to shut down Gitmo .without Congress.. .and this speech sounded like he was still passing the buck to Congress. I guess I just need to re-read the transcript.

        • RalphB says:

          I’m just wondering how you end a war on a noun. That’s unprecedented.

        • bostonboomer says:

          Hey, I put up a new post. There have been a bunch of changes to the tale of the FBI shooting in Orlando yesterday.

        • @Mona: and this speech sounded like he was still passing the buck to Congress.

          Yup, totally agree…

  81. NW Luna says:

    Wow, thanks everyone for the commentary.

    So now Obama wants to undo or roll back the AUMF. Funny, when in Congress he kept voting for everything connected with it. And he thinks it’s perfectly legal to kill American citizens abroad because they’re guilty without trial. Well, that’s transparent.