Obama: I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to kill any U.S. citizen with a drone without due process

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, May 23, 2013

After two and a half months of waiting, President Barack Obama finally told the American people that he supports the military’s use of drone strikes against Americans, noting that they help keep Americans safe from terrorists.

Congressional Republicans have waited since Obama delivered his State of the Union speech in early February to learn the administration’s answer on drone strikes. Not even Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) 13-hour filibuster back in March, which was on the topic of drone strikes on American citizens, could sway the administration to be follow through with its promise of transparency.

“This week, I authorized the declassification of this action, and the deaths of three other Americans in drone strikes, to facilitate transparency and debate on this issue, and to dismiss some of the more outlandish claims,” Obama said during a speech from the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. Thursday. “For the record, I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen – with a drone, or a shotgun – without due process. Nor should any President deploy armed drones over U.S. soil.”

He added as well that drones help prevent unnecessary deaths and helped the military capture and kill al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden back in 2011.

The president neglected, however, to apologize for the inadvertent deaths of three Americans by drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan while conducting counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda and its allies, as confirmed in a letter sent to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) by Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday.

“It is a hard fact that U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties, a risk that exists in every war,” the president said. “Conventional airpower or missiles are far less precise than drones, and likely to cause more civilian casualties & more local outrage.”

According to Holder’s letter, one of those killed, Anwar al-Awlaki, was targeted by the administration. Al-Awlakihad incited several attacks of terror against the United States, including the Fort Hood mass shooting and foiled “underwear bombing” of a U.S.-bound plane in 2009, and the failed Times Square bombing in 2010. The other three were casualties of strikes aimed at non-citizens.

“Since entering office, the president has made clear his commitment to providing Congress and the American people with as much information as possible about our sensitive counterterrorism operations,” Holder said in the letter. “To this end, the president has directed me to disclose certain information that until now has been properly classified. The administration is determined to continue these extensive outreach efforts to communicate with the American people.”

Paul, who introduced his “Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2013” in the Senate Wednesday, was glad that the president finally discussed the drone strikes on Thursday, but still isn’t convinced he’s doing enough to protect American citizens.

“I’m glad the President finally acknowledged that American citizens deserve some form of due process,” Paul said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “But I still have concerns over whether flash cards and PowerPoint presentations represent due process; my preference would be to try accused U.S. citizens for treason in a court of law.”

And just like he has with the various other scandals ravaging the administration now, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney attempted – but failed – to defend his boss’s inaction during Wednesday’s press briefing.

“But this is a matter that, as I said before and as the President has said, he thinks is an absolutely valid and legitimate and important area of discussion and debate and conversation, and that it is his belief that there need to be structures in place that remain in place for successive administrations so that in the carrying out of counterterrorism policy, procedures are followed that allow it to be conducted in a way that ensures that we’re keeping with our traditions and our laws,” Carney told reporters.

Even after the president’s remarks, it’s still too much, too late from a president who is not very good at being honest with the American people.

This article was updated to reflect comments made by President Obama’s remarks at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. Thursday, as well as a statement from Sen. Rand Paul regarding the remarks.

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