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.
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.
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.
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 C-Span.org.