You are hereFeed aggregator
Children Affected by Hurricane Sandy to Join First Lady Michelle Obama for the Summer Harvest of the White House Kitchen Garden
News from the White House - 1 hour 1 min ago
Mrs. Obama will be joined by children from New Jersey communities that were affected by Hurricane Sandy, as well as children who helped plant the garden in April
Washington, DC – On Tuesday, May 28, at 1:30 PM ET, First Lady Michelle Obama will join school children from across the country to harvest the summer crop from the White House Kitchen Garden. For this harvest, the First Lady invited children from two New Jersey communities that were affected by Hurricane Sandy. The First Lady also invited back all the children who helped plant the garden in April so they could see the fruits of their labors. She will be joined by students from Somerville, MA; Knox County, TN; Milton, VT and Washington, DC.
Mrs. Obama planted a vegetable garden on the South Lawn to initiate a national conversation around the health and wellbeing of our nation – a conversation that evolved into her Let’s Move! initiative to solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation.
Children from the following New Jersey schools affected by Hurricane Sandy will help harvest this year’s garden:
Union Beach Memorial School – Union Beach, NJ
The students of Union Beach Memorial School were displaced by Hurricane Sandy and currently attend school in other locations while their school is repaired. Through the displacement, Union Beach school district is focused on keeping their students healthy. The school district is providing all its displaced students with a free lunch through the National School Lunch Program until they return to Memorial School, and in March, 8th grade students from the school joined New Jersey and USDA officials to celebrate National Nutrition Month. Recently, volunteers planted herb and vegetable beds at Memorial School for the students to utilize upon their return to the school.
Long Beach Island Grade School – Ship Bottom, NJ
Since Hurricane Sandy, all of the LBI Grade School students (grades 3-6) have been attending their sister school, the Ethel A. Jacobsen Elementary School, which is PreK-2. They are awaiting their modular classroom units due to storm damage to their school. Despite the displacement, the school was recognized with the HealthierUS School Challenge award in March of 2013. The school uses MyPlate to teach kids about healthy eating, and they provide ideas for healthy classroom snacking while partaking in their home-grown crops at the EJ School. The district will also be receiving an award from the USDA officials in June 2013.
Children from the following schools who helped plant this year’s garden will also be returning to harvest what they planted:
Arthur D. Healey School, Somerville Public Schools – Somerville, MA
Somerville Public Schools has had great success with the new, healthy school meals and is promoting healthy eating and snacking at school and at home. The district has a Farm to School program for K-12 that includes food education events like “corn shucking day” when kids learn about the food they’re eating in school meals. At Healey, the school’s parents, teachers, the Mayor, and school administrators support the continued efforts to integrate nutrition education into after-school programming. The school serves healthy breakfasts and snacks, its lunch program has a salad bar and kids participate in taste tests as new healthy recipes are created. The Healey Garden, started in 2004, hosts celebratory gardening days and gardening activities throughout the year.
Sarah Moore Greene Magnet Technology Academy, Knox County Schools – Knox County, TN
This school district revamped its lunch menus and engaged parents and students to make sure everyone would like their new healthy recipes - like their own hand-tossed, whole grain pizza. Sarah More Greene Elementary has integrated innovative ways of encouraging kids to eat fruits and vegetables. Just this fall, the school started a Jeffersonian Heirloom Garden and connected the project to 3rd-5th grade social studies coursework on America’s history, highlighting American presidents who have had a role in gardening and land stewardship. Additionally, the school offers nutritious snacks and breakfasts to students daily and works with community partners to provide gardening classes to parents and kids.
Milton Elementary School, Milton Town School District – Milton, VT
This district has made lunchtime a dining experience for students by using MyPlate, fruit and veggie bars, local ingredients, and delicious takes on fruits and vegetables like squash with nutmeg and cinnamon. They also have kid taste tests and samplings to ensure that kids like the meals served. Milton Elementary School is currently planting a garden and using the produce for student meals during the school year and for their summer food service program.
Categories: White House News
News from the White House - 1 hour 55 min ago
The President today made additional disaster assistance available to the State of New York by authorizing an increase in the level of federal funding for Public Assistance projects undertaken in the State of New York as a result of Hurricane Sandy during the period of October 27 to November 8, 2012.
Under the President’s major disaster declaration issued for the State of New York on October 30, 2012, assistance was made available for Public Assistance, Hazard Mitigation, and Other Needs Assistance at 75 percent federal funding.
The President previously authorized 100 percent federal funding for fifteen days for emergency power restoration assistance and emergency public transportation assistance, including direct federal assistance, for those areas within New York counties designated for Public Assistance.
Under the President's order today, the federal share for Public Assistance, including direct federal assistance, has been increased to 90 percent of the total eligible costs, except for the assistance previously authorized at 100 percent federal funding.
Categories: White House News
News from the White House - 1 hour 55 min ago
WASHINGTON, DC- Today, President Obama nominated Judge Landya B. McCafferty, Justice Brian Morris, and Judge Susan P. Watters to serve as district court judges.
“These individuals have had distinguished legal careers and I am honored to ask them to continue their work as judges on the federal bench,” said President Obama. “They will serve the American people with integrity and an unwavering commitment to justice.”
Judge Landya B. McCafferty: Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire
Judge Landya B. McCafferty currently serves as a United States Magistrate Judge for the District of New Hampshire, a position she has held since 2010. Before becoming a federal magistrate judge, Judge McCafferty served as Disciplinary Counsel for the New Hampshire Attorney Discipline Office from 2003 to 2010 and as a staff attorney for the New Hampshire Public Defender Program from 1995 to 2003. She clerked for Judge A. David Mazzone of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts from 1994 to 1995 and worked as an associate at the law firm of McLane, Graf, Raulerson & Middleton, P.A. from 1993 to 1994. Judge McCafferty began her legal career as a law clerk for the Honorable Norman H. Stahl of the United States District Court of New Hampshire; she continued clerking for him upon his elevation to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. She received her J.D. in 1991 from Northeastern University School of Law and her A.B. cum laude in 1984 from Harvard University.
Justice Brian Morris: Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of Montana
Justice Brian Morris has served on the Montana Supreme Court since 2005. Prior to his appointment to the bench, he served as the Solicitor of the Montana Department of Justice from 2001 to 2005. From 2000 to 2001, Justice Morris was a Senior Legal Officer at the United Nations Compensation Commission in Geneva, Switzerland. He worked at the law firm of Goetz, Madden & Dunn, P.C. in Bozeman from 1995 to 2000, and from 1994 to 1995, he worked as a legal assistant with the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal in The Hague. After graduating from law school, Justice Morris clerked for Judge John T. Noonan, Jr. of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist of the United States Supreme Court. He received his J.D. with distinction in 1992 from Stanford Law School and his M.A. and B.A. in 1987 from Stanford University.
Judge Susan P. Watters: Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of Montana
Judge Susan P. Watters is currently a judge on the Thirteenth Judicial District Court of Montana, a position that she has held since 1998. From 1996 to 1998, she practiced both criminal and civil litigation at the law firm Hendrickson, Everson, Noennig & Woodward, P.C. in Billings. Judge Watters was a sole practitioner focusing on criminal defense from 1995 to 1996 and a Deputy County Attorney in Yellowstone County, Montana, from 1989 to 1995. From 1988 to 1989, she was a law clerk for two different judges on the Thirteenth Judicial District Court of Montana. Judge Watters received her J.D. in 1988 from the University of Montana School of Law and her B.A. in 1980 from Eastern Montana College.
Categories: White House News
News from the White House - 1 hour 55 min ago
WASHINGTON, DC- Today, President Obama nominated Zachary Thomas Fardon to serve as United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.
“Today, I am honored to nominate this highly respected legal professional as a United States Attorney,” President Obama said. “Zachary Fardon will be unwavering in his commitment to justice and I am confident he will serve the people of Illinois with excellence.”
Zachary Thomas Fardon: Nominee for United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois
Zachary Thomas Fardon is a partner at the law firm of Latham & Watkins and currently serves as the Chair of the Litigation Department in their Chicago office. Previously, Fardon served as the First Assistant United States Attorney in the Middle District of Tennessee from 2003 to 2006 and as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Northern District of Illinois from 1997 to 2003. He began his legal career working as an Assistant Public Defender in the Nashville Metropolitan Public Defender’s Office from 1996 to 1997 and as an associate at the law firm of King & Spalding from 1992 to 1996. Fardon received his J.D. in 1992 from Vanderbilt Law School and his B.A. in 1988 from Vanderbilt University.
Categories: White House News
News from the White House - 2 hours 19 min ago
I’m pleased the Senate unanimously confirmed Sri Srinivasan to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Sri is a trailblazer who personifies the best of America. Born in Chandigarh, India, and raised in Lawrence, Kansas, Sri spent nearly two decades as an extraordinary litigator before serving as Principal Deputy Solicitor General of the United States. Now he will serve with distinction on the federal bench. Sri will in fact be the first South Asian American to serve as a circuit court judge in our history. While I applaud the Senate’s action, it’s important to remember that this confirmation is the first one to this important court in seven years. The three remaining vacancies must be filled, as well as other vacancies across the country.
Categories: White House News
Background Briefing by Senior Administration Officials on the President's Speech on Counterterrorism
News from the White House - 2 hours 41 min ago
Via Conference Call
12:03 P.M. EDT
MS. HAYDEN: Hi, guys. Thanks for joining, and apologies for a slight delay. We're here talking today about the speech the President is about to give at 2:00 p.m. at National Defense University on counterterrorism. This call is on background, attributable to senior administration officials. This call is embargoed until 2:00 p.m. when the President speaks.
We actually don't have a lot of time so we'll go ahead and get started.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks, everybody, for joining the call. I'll just run through some of the elements of the speech and then we'll take your questions.
The purpose of this speech is to take a step back and to take a broad look at our counterterrorism efforts, and I think you will see the President cover a significant amount of ground in this speech. He'll review what has taken place since 9/11 in the war against al Qaeda and its associated forces, and he will discuss how the threat has changed substantially over the course of the last decade.
We now face a situation in which the core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on a path to defeat. They have been greatly damaged by our relentless pursuit of al Qaeda senior leadership, and the threat of 9/11-style attacks, mass casualty attacks in the United States, has been greatly reduced.
At the same time, however, we have seen the threat change significantly and new threats have emerged. For instance, we face a threat from al Qaeda affiliates, notably AQAP, who continue to plot against the homeland. We face a threat from the unrest in the Arab world, which has allowed extremists to gain a foothold in countries that are undergoing significant change. These groups are often more locally focused in terms of the types of attacks that they carry out. And we are vigilant, of course, for any ambitions that they may demonstrate towards transnational plotting, but a lot of these groups do not focus on attacks beyond their borders. And of course, we also face a threat from homegrown violent extremism, as we recently saw in Boston.
So you face a situation where threats like those from AQAP, like those of the attacks on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, and like those of the attacks in Boston represent the future of the types of threats we're facing from terrorism, rather than the type of threat we faced on 9/11.
So the President will discuss a broad strategy for how we deal with that threat. I'll just talk through several of the elements that he'll discuss.
One is he will discuss how we take direct action, including lethal action, against al Qaeda and its associated forces. We have a preference for working with partners and strengthening their capacity to take action against terrorist networks. And we see that in Pakistan, where the Pakistanis have taken action against extremists’ in Yemen, where we’re strengthening security forces; in Somalia, for instance, where we’re working with other nations to combat al-Shabaab.
However, it is, of course, the case that the United States does take direct lethal action against al Qaeda and its associated forces, including beyond the active war zone of Afghanistan, and we do so with unmanned aerial vehicles -- drones. And the President will be discussing the presidential policy guidance that he signed this week that codifies the high and rigorous standards that we’ve applied for the use of direct lethal action.
I’ll just mention a few of the types of standards that he will be discussing today. So, for instance -- again, let me preface this by saying he’ll make clear both the policy and legal rationale for our actions and the fact that our actions are lawful under both domestic and international law, as well as our preference for working with partners to combat terrorist networks.
At the same time, he’ll make clear the beyond the Afghan theater, we only target al Qaeda and its associated forces, and we place constraints on our actions. So America does not take drone strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists. We have a preference to detain, interrogate, and prosecute terrorists.
America acts with respect for state sovereignty, so we do not claim the right to take strikes wherever we choose; we do so respectful of state sovereignty.
America does not take strikes to punish individuals; we only take action against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people, and when there are no other governments capable of effectively addressing the threat. And, importantly, before any strike is taken, there must a near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured in the strike, which is the highest standard that we can set for avoiding civilian casualties.
So those are the types of standards that he’ll be addressing. He’ll also discuss at length the various tradeoffs and questions that he wrestles with and that our government has wrestled with in using lethal force abroad as it relates to efforts to prevent civilian casualties. And I think you will hear him make a very strong case that the use of targeted action is preferable to large-scale military deployments, to other types of more indiscriminate air power. and, of course, to permitting terrorist attacks that could be prevented to take place.
As a part of his discussion, he will address the declassification that he authorized this week of the four instances in which U.S. citizens have been killed in U.S. lethal action -- sorry -- U.S. counterterrorism operations abroad. He will make clear that, in the instance in which a U.S. citizen was targeted, Anwar Awlaki, there was a very careful review both by the Department of Justice and across the administration about the decision to take that strike, while also making clear that Congress was fully briefed on that action before it took place.
And he’ll also make clear in that context that the standards that we apply for taking lethal action abroad are uniform for all people -- American citizens and other terrorist targets.
He will discuss the importance of oversight, including how we’ve been committed to congressional oversight. He will also indicate that he is open to and has asked his administration to review the possibility of additional oversight of lethal actions outside of warzones that goes beyond Congress, and he will discuss some of the tradeoffs associated with, for instance, a potential special court that could evaluate and authorize lethal action, or an independent body within the executive branch that could do so. And he will indicate that he is open to working with Congress to review those types of options going forward.
At the same time, he’ll make clear that the use of force is not the totality of our strategy against terrorism, nor should it be. It must be seen as part of a broader counterterrorism strategy, because, frankly, the use of force alone cannot defeat the violent extremism that leads to terrorist attacks. And the perpetual use of force would alter our country in a fundamental way.
So he will discuss strategies for promoting democratic governance in the context of the transitions in the Middle East and North Africa. He will discuss the importance of the United States being engaged around the world to resolve conflict and to help promote development. And in that context, he will discuss the tradeoffs of needing to be present in dangerous parts of the world, but also needing to secure our diplomats. And he’ll reiterate his call for Congress to fully fund our efforts to bolster security at our diplomatic posts abroad, even as we wrestle with the tradeoffs of needing to be present in dangerous places and facing risks in those places.
He will also discuss the threats of homegrown extremism, making clear that we have faced the threat of violent extremism from within our borders throughout our history and need to take action, though, given the fact that in today’s world, particularly given the Internet, individuals can be radicalized and commit themselves to a violent agenda and learn how to kill without leaving their homes. And he’ll discuss the efforts we have underway to work with law enforcement and to work with the Muslim-American community to identify signs of radicalization when individuals are drifting towards violence, and to prevent these types of acts of homegrown terrorism here in the United States.
He will also discuss some of the other tradeoffs associated with our efforts to both combat terrorism and protect our open society. One of those issues is the ongoing discussion of leak investigations, and the President will indicate that he believes that we must protect the right of a free press, even as we must prosecute those who violate the law in their commitment to protect classified information.
He'll reiterate his personal concern about any potential chilling effect on investigative reporting that results from these types of leak investigations. And to prevent that effect, he'll reiterate his call on Congress to pass a media shield law, and he'll also indicate additional steps that he is taking along with the Attorney General to make sure that we are reviewing the guidelines under which there are investigations of potential leaks.
He will also discuss his effort to engage Congress going forward about the authorization to use military force that has been in force for nearly 12 years, and he will discuss the need to refine that authorization going forward consistent with this commitment to make sure that we have a sustainable approach to fighting terrorism.
With the Afghan war ending, with al Qaeda core being significantly degraded, it is the President's belief that we need to discipline our thinking as it relates to terrorism, and we need to ensure that this war that we're engaged in, like all American wars, must come to an end.
And that relates to the subject of detention, which he'll discuss. He will reiterate his call for the closure of Gitmo. I think we'll hear him make the case for why Gitmo should be closed at length, given its cost to our reputation, its costs in terms of budgetary expenditure, as well as the constraints it places on our ability to work with other countries and to bring certain terrorists to justice.
He will announce a number of specific steps that he can take related to the closure of Gitmo. He’ll call on Congress to lift restrictions on detainee transfers from Gitmo. He will indicate that he is asking the Department of Defense to designate a site in the United States where we can hold military commissions. He’ll indicate that he is appointing a new senior envoy to the State Department, as well as a new senior official at the Defense Department, who will be responsible for achieving the transfers of detainees to other countries.
He will announce that he is lifting the moratorium on detainee transfers to Yemen so that we can review those on a case-by-case basis, and to the greatest extent possible, indicate that we will transfer detainees who have been cleared to go to other countries. And he will indicate his commitment to bringing terrorists to justice in our courts and military justice system, as well as his commitment to insist that judicial review is available for every detainee at Gitmo.
So, obviously, he covers a lot of ground in this speech. The purpose generally is to put in context for the American people where we are in the fight against terrorism; to address the fact that the threat has changed and to try to take all these elements of our counterterrorism strategy and put them on a more sustainable footing -- a footing that envisions the day when we no longer need to be on the type of war footing that we have been in for the last nearly 12 years.
I will say that the President believes that this type of transparency is essential in our democracy. He indicated that he wanted to give a speech like this in the State of the Union and we have been working on this speech since then. And the presidential policy guidance that he finalized today we've actually been working on for many, many, many months, back into last year. And they reflect the rigorous approach we've applied to this over the course of the last four years.
With that, we’ll be happy to take your questions.
Q Is the President's decision to make these changes at Guantanamo Bay spurred by the ongoing hunger strike? And if not because of the hunger strike, why take action now?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure, I'll take a crack at that. First of all, the President has always been committed to closing Gitmo and we pursued a number of transfers of detainees in pursuit of that goal in the first term. What happened then is Congress placed extraordinary restrictions on our ability to transfer individuals either to the United States or to other countries and essentially slowed down this process.
Now, given that this is the beginning or near the beginning of his second term, and given the importance he places on closing Gitmo, he feels the need to indicate every action that he can take as President to accomplish this goal of closing Gitmo and to bring Congress into that effort, because ultimately we do need congressional support.
With respect to the hunger strike, I think it's certainly true that you'll hear him reference that as an indication of the type of situation we have, where you have 166 detainees, many of whom have been cleared, frankly, for transfer to other countries, who are resorting to that tactic, given the inability to move forward with a number of the mechanisms that we have for resolving their cases and closing Gitmo.
So the fundamental point is that this is part of his commitment to closing Gitmo because it's in our national security interest and it's consistent with our commitment to the rule of law. The timing is driven both by the President indicating his agenda on this issue in his second term, but part of the context of that is people taking the drastic steps of hunger strikes in Gitmo.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me submit one element. The only thing I would say is what you'll hear -- and as my colleague referenced, the President will indicate his intention to lift the moratorium on transfers to Yemen that had previously been in place. And I think what that also reflects is a recognition that in President Hadi, the United States has a willing and able -- an increasingly able partner who is presiding over a very -- over a political transition there in Yemen. And the President’s decision to lift the moratorium on transfers to Yemen and address those transfers on a case-by-case basis, consistent with our national security, also reflects those changed circumstances.
Q Will the President address what he would like to be done with Gitmo detainees who can't be tried for various reasons and who are deemed too dangerous to be released? Does he have any power on his own to address this system, or is he completely in the hands of Congress?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, Steve, it's a very good question. He will address that topic. First of all, as a general matter, he will make clear that we have been acting entirely consistent with the law of war in how we end conflicts abroad.
So, for instance, in Iraq, we transferred thousands of detainees to the Iraqi government as a part of ending the war. In Afghanistan, we’re in the process of transitioning detention facilities to the Afghan government. The point being is that beyond the population in Gitmo, we have not engaged in preventive detention without subjecting all of our actions to the laws of war. Even at Gitmo, that is, of course, the legal authority under which individuals are being held.
But he will acknowledge that this is the most difficult piece of the puzzle in terms of resolving all of the cases at Gitmo, in part because, in some instances, you have individuals who have had the evidence against them compromised or have evidence against them that is not admissible in a court. But at the same time, he will make clear that if we commit ourselves to a process of closing Gitmo that includes not just transfers to other countries, but prosecutions here in military -- in the criminal justice system -- that he believes we can resolve that issue, and we can do so consistent with our commitment to the rule of law.
So I think what the President will be indicating is if we make a concerted effort to close Gitmo to resolve all these cases and to use all available tools within our justice system, he believes we can resolve that issue. And we can act with the Gitmo population as we have across the board completely in line with the laws of war and our own commitment to the rule of law.
We'll take the next question.
Q The new order the President signed in the past week on on drones, how much -- how many of these criteria are new, in other words, did not apply to previous drone strikes before this order was signed?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This has been an evolving process. And basically I think you've heard -- and John mentioned in his speech and other places that we've been continually sort of refining and strengthening the process by which we deal with this. And when you look at the public factsheet that will be released on these procedures, what you'll see is a lot of interagency process, some of which is -- basically all of which, frankly, over time, evolves.
And then you'll also see that there are criteria listed, and some of them will be slightly different than the criteria, for example, that John Brennan noted in his Wilson Center speech. And it's a sort of -- it’s an involving process. So one of the differences is we were looking at significant threats in the Wilson Center speech, and now we're looking at continuing and imminent threats. And so that is, in a sense, one of the standards that has evolved.
And in addition, you'll see a lot of stress on making every reasonable effort to address whatever the threat is through our partners, through the host nation, through other mechanisms. But otherwise, you'll see also a lot of continuity in the way in which we approach these things that are basically being codified in the guidance that’s been issued.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The only thing I’d add to that, Jon, as my colleague indicates, we have sought to refine these practices over time. The President believed that given the grave issues at stake here it was necessary to codify these guidelines so they were clear to all agencies of our government, and to the American people and the world as well. And in some instances, as my colleague indicated, that involves strengthened standards like only taking action against continued and imminent threats to the United States, for instance.
And you'll also see the President indicating here that he insists that near-certainty that civilians won't be killed or injured is a part of the standards under which the United States takes action.
So, in some respects, this does indicate the codification of the highest standards that we have pursued in the course of the last several years. And that is meant as a baseline to guide us going forward.
I’ll also note that, without getting into every operation here, that we do indicate in the PPG that the United States military is the appropriate agency to use force outside of active warzones, given their traditional role and given the transparency they can be associated with actions by the United States military. Again, that’s not to say that the United States does not pursue a range of counterterrorism operations around the world, but there is an expressed preference indicated for the United States military to have the lead for the use of force around the world.
Q Thanks for doing this. When Anwar Awlaki was targeted in Yemen and his 16-year-old son was killed who was also an American citizen, I’m just wondering how do you see this? Do you see it as collateral damage or guilty by association? Where does he fall in terms of being just the son of Anwar Awlaki?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure, I’ll just say a couple of things. First of all, as was made clear in the letter yesterday, Anwar Awlaki was the one U.S. citizen who was targeted for direct lethal action by the United States. And the purpose of that decision was rooted in the fact that Anwar Awlaki posed a continuing and imminent threat to the United States as a chief of external operations for AQAP, as somebody who had played a role in plots like the Christmas Day attack, like the effort to blow up cargo planes headed for the United States, and in ongoing plotting against the United States.
In those other instances, I don’t want to get into the details of each of those instances. What I will say generally is that there are times when there are individuals who are present at al Qaeda and associated forces facilities, and in that regard they are subject to the lethal action that we take. There are other instances when there are tragic cases of civilian casualties and people that the United States does not in any way intend to target -- because, again, as in any war, there are tragic consequences that come with the decision to use force, including civilian casualties.
What the President will discuss in the speech is the tradeoffs involved, and the fact that, frankly, we believe that there would be far greater civilian casualties if the United States were to use its military abroad in a way in which we did in Iraq or even Afghanistan to go after terrorists. There would be greater civilian casualties where we would use more indiscriminate air power that is not as able to be precise like some of our drone strikes are.
And at the same time, there are greater civilian casualties that would result from a failure to prevent terrorist attacks not just in the United States, but in places like Yemen, where you’ve seen far more Yemenis killed by AQAP than you have seen Americans.
So that’s the type of discussion you’ll see from the President today -- one that acknowledges that we do take targeted action against individuals who pose a continuing and imminent threat. At the same time, we acknowledge and wrestle with the need to avoid any civilian casualties, and we view any civilian casualty as a tragic consequence of this ongoing war.
We’ll take another question.
Q Hi, thanks for doing the call. I was hoping that you could talk in more detail about -- either in the speech or if he’s not getting into it in the speech, how what he’s doing will work in terms of the shifting of more of the drone responsibilities from the CIA to the military. What countries? What schedule? Will it go to JSOC, or will it be more transparent? And also, will signature strikes explicitly be prohibited now?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’ll just say a couple things here, Margaret, and see if my colleague has anything to add.
With respect to which agency is responsible, I’d just kind of repeat a bit of what I said to Jon in the sense that we’re not going to be able to discuss every counterterrorism operation that we undertake around the world. I think what we do express in the PPG, though, is the preference that the United States military have the lead for the use of force not just in warzones like Afghanistan, but beyond Afghanistan where we are fighting against al Qaeda and its associated forces. So there’s an indication of a preference for the Department of Defense to engage in the use of force outside of warzones.
I think I’ll turn it over to my colleague and see if my colleague has anything to add.
On the signature strike question that you asked, I don’t want to get into the details of any specific strike. What I’d say is, first of all, we indicate a preference to work with partners, first and foremost, to deal with the threat of terrorism. Any action that we do take in terms of direct lethal action is subject to that standard of a continuing and imminent threat to the United States. The context for this is generally our war against al Qaeda and associated forces, but of course in the Afghan war theater, there is a slightly different context in the sense that we take action against high-value al Qaeda targets, but we also take action against forces that are massing to support attacks on our troops and on coalition forces in Afghanistan.
So by the end of 2014, as we wind down the war in Afghanistan, we will not have the same need for force protection and those types of strikes that are designed to protect our forces in Afghanistan. Furthermore, we believe that the core of al Qaeda has been greatly diminished so, therefore, that will reduce the need for unmanned strikes against the core of al Qaeda as well.
So I think you can take from that the context for which we view these strikes, particularly in the Afghan war theater where there had been the dual needs in the past for both action against al Qaeda core and action to protect our forces in Afghanistan.
Given the two principal changing circumstances in our effort against terrorism -- the winding down of the war in Afghanistan and the demise of al Qaeda core -- the need for the types of strikes that we’ve taken generally over the course of the last several years will be reduced over time.
Q Can you tell me if the President believes the U.S. is still in a war on terror? Or is that a phrase that he doesn't embrace? And Major Garrett is sharing the same phone line as I am, so he’s got a question as well.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay, it’s a good question, Mark. The President has indicated and will indicate again today that he rejects the notion of global war on terrorism, which is an amorphous definition that applies to a tactic. Rather than fighting a global war on terrorism, which is open-ended and expansive in nature and is not precise in terms who we are fighting, the President I think will make clear that what we are engaged in is a focused effort against a very specific network of violent extremists that threaten the United States and pose a direct and credible threat to the United States.
So, in other words, we are defining this more narrowly than a global war on terrorism. This is an effort to dismantle a specific group of networks that pose a threat to the United States.
I think you'll see the President also indicate that even that effort we have to acknowledge will come to an end at some point, that the purpose of this effort is not to sustain a war footing in perpetuity, but it's rather to defeat al Qaeda and their associated forces and reduce the threat to the United States.
I think the President will also indicate that ultimately our resilience is our strongest weapon in this effort. You cannot eliminate risk. You cannot eliminate terrorism. And I think the President will discuss in his speech the fact that the types of threats that we face today are of a similar scale to the threat that we faced from terrorism in the past when we had attacks on our embassies and we had attacks on planes and transit systems.
So the notion that you can eliminate terrorism altogether is not something that is realistic. What is necessary is to dismantle groups like al Qaeda and their associated forces who have posed such an elevated threat to the United States, to reduce the threat to our diplomats serving overseas, but ultimately to have a sustainable and resilient approach that focuses our efforts on the groups that are most dangerous to us, but does not get drawn into wars with groups that do not pose a credible threat to the United States.
Q How specific will the President be? And will you actually present to Congress language -- or if not language, ideas -- about this concept of a separate evidentiary review for targeted drone strikes? You mentioned the President is open to that. I'm just curious how open. And is he so open he is going to present some language to Congress?
And your colleague says that the policy has been evolving. Clearly, the drone number of strikes are down in Pakistan. They're down in Yemen. They haven't occurred in Somalia. To what degree does that reduction in numbers reflect the ongoing evolution of this policy and if something has been essentially not done that would have been done, say, a year and a half or two years ago?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: On your second question, what I'd say is it's both. It's both the fact that we have reduced the threat of terrorism and removed a lot of the senior leadership of al Qaeda and some other affiliates. And also, our effort to ensure that there are high standards and constraints on our use of lethal force.
On your first question, there are two areas, Major, I think where the President will indicate a desire to engage Congress. One is this question of independent review. I think we're not proposing a language at this point, but what we're indicating is there ideas, for instance, to have a special court like a FISA-type court to review lethal action or to have an independent body within the executive branch rope into those ideas. But Congress should be a part of the discussion and the American people should be a part of the discussion.
We have done our part with this presidential policy guidance to constrain ourselves and to set standards on the use of direct action. But at the same time, we need to bring Congress into that discussion, and so that’s something we'll be doing going forward.
Similarly, the AUMF is an area where the President will indicate a desire to work with Congress, but he'll make clear that as a part of that effort, he is not seeking to broaden presidential authorities; he is seeking to refine this so that we have a more disciplined and sustainable approach to fighting terrorism.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would just say on your question about the independent review --, I think what you'll hear from the President is there is an openness, and he certainly understands the concerns that have been raised, and this whole PPG effort is an effort to recognize the need to have these types of checks. And you'll hear him discuss those different ideas, and also the tradeoffs and the difficulties that are associated with some of them.
Q A question about Guantanamo. The President could have moved independent of Congress, despite their restrictions before. Is he now prepared to assert that there is, under the current guidelines, no chance that these particular detainees that go back to Yemen will rejoin jihad? Is that something you feel comfortable with, despite the improvements that you've cited in the governance there?
And separately, on the subject of the media investigations, are you completely comfortable with the assertion yesterday from the prosecutor that every attempt was made to narrow the scope and limit these inquiries? Because the President is going to say today that he believes in press freedoms and wants a shield law when the broad impression -- and feel free to correct it -- is that this has been the most aggressive investigation into leaks involving media freedoms of any administration.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'll make a couple of points and then turn it over to my colleague here. I'm not going to comment on any specific case as it relates to leak investigations. You know we can't do that.
What I'll say generally is, first of all, the President has a responsibility as Commander-in-Chief to prevent the release of sensitive information. Frankly, a lot of the discussion, public discussion has been focused on certain instances where these are investigations that were called for by Congress, as well.
But I think what the President will indicate today in his speech is that the target of these investigations should be -- generally speaking, should be those individuals who break the law and violate their commitment to protect classified information should not be reporters. And reporters have a right to be tough, aggressive, investigative journalists, and that's a fundamental part of our democracy.
So that's I think the way in which you’ll hear him frame it.
On Gitmo, my colleague will want to discuss this. I’d just reinforce that we have a national security interest in closing the facility, first of all, and we have a changed circumstance in Yemen with respect to the moratorium.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, Andrea, on the Gitmo piece, the moratorium was something that the President imposed, and that was an action he took before the congressional restrictions. What he will say is he now wants to be able to consider those transfers on a case-by-case basis consistent with national security.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: But I’d just add one more thing that's important. The President is announcing today all the steps that he can take to move this forward. There is a responsibility on Congress here, and he will call on Congress to lift these restrictions. So what you're hearing from him today on Gitmo is, here’s what I can do as Commander-in-Chief and President of the United States to close this facility that is harmful to our national interest and that costs us nearly a million dollars to sustain an individual for one year. We need to get this done. But Congress has a responsibility as well, and that's what we’re going to be looking for going forward.
MS. HAYDEN: Okay, thanks, everyone, for joining. Just a reminder this is on background, senior administration officials, embargoed until 2:00 p.m. Thanks.
12:14 P.M. EDT
Categories: White House News
Fact Sheet: U.S. Policy Standards and Procedures for the Use of Force in Counterterrorism Operations Outside the United States and Areas of Active Hostilities
News from the White House - 2 hours 44 min ago
Since his first day in office, President Obama has been clear that the United States will use all available tools of national power to protect the American people from the terrorist threat posed by al-Qa’ida and its associated forces. The President has also made clear that, in carrying on this fight, we will uphold our laws and values and will share as much information as possible with the American people and the Congress, consistent with our national security needs and the proper functioning of the Executive Branch. To these ends, the President has approved, and senior members of the Executive Branch have briefed to the Congress, written policy standards and procedures that formalize and strengthen the Administration’s rigorous process for reviewing and approving operations to capture or employ lethal force against terrorist targets outside the United States and outside areas of active hostilities. Additionally, the President has decided to share, in this document, certain key elements of these standards and procedures with the American people so that they can make informed judgments and hold the Executive Branch accountable.
This document provides information regarding counterterrorism policy standards and procedures that are either already in place or will be transitioned into place over time. As Administration officials have stated publicly on numerous occasions, we are continually working to refine, clarify, and strengthen our standards and processes for using force to keep the nation safe from the terrorist threat. One constant is our commitment to conducting counterterrorism operations lawfully. In addition, we consider the separate question of whether force should be used as a matter of policy. The most important policy consideration, particularly when the United States contemplates using lethal force, is whether our actions protect American lives.
Preference for Capture
The policy of the United States is not to use lethal force when it is feasible to capture a terrorist suspect, because capturing a terrorist offers the best opportunity to gather meaningful intelligence and to mitigate and disrupt terrorist plots. Capture operations are conducted only against suspects who may lawfully be captured or otherwise taken into custody by the United States and only when the operation can be conducted in accordance with all applicable law and consistent with our obligations to other sovereign states.
Standards for the Use of Lethal Force
Any decision to use force abroad – even when our adversaries are terrorists dedicated to killing American citizens – is a significant one. Lethal force will not be proposed or pursued as punishment or as a substitute for prosecuting a terrorist suspect in a civilian court or a military commission. Lethal force will be used only to prevent or stop attacks against U.S. persons, and even then, only when capture is not feasible and no other reasonable alternatives exist to address the threat effectively. In particular, lethal force will be used outside areas of active hostilities only when the following preconditions are met:
First, there must be a legal basis for using lethal force, whether it is against a senior operational leader of a terrorist organization or the forces that organization is using or intends to use to conduct terrorist attacks.
Second, the United States will use lethal force only against a target that poses a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons. It is simply not the case that all terrorists pose a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons; if a terrorist does not pose such a threat, the United States will not use lethal force.
Third, the following criteria must be met before lethal action may be taken:
Near certainty that the terrorist target is present;
Near certainty that non-combatants will not be injured or killed;
An assessment that capture is not feasible at the time of the operation;
An assessment that the relevant governmental authorities in the country where action is contemplated cannot or will not effectively address the threat to U.S. persons; and
An assessment that no other reasonable alternatives exist to effectively address the threat to U.S. persons.
Finally, whenever the United States uses force in foreign territories, international legal principles, including respect for sovereignty and the law of armed conflict, impose important constraints on the ability of the United States to act unilaterally – and on the way in which the United States can use force. The United States respects national sovereignty and international law.
U.S. Government Coordination and Review
Decisions to capture or otherwise use force against individual terrorists outside the United States and areas of active hostilities are made at the most senior levels of the U.S. Government, informed by departments and agencies with relevant expertise and institutional roles. Senior national security officials – including the deputies and heads of key departments and agencies – will consider proposals to make sure that our policy standards are met, and attorneys – including the senior lawyers of key departments and agencies – will review and determine the legality of proposals.
These decisions will be informed by a broad analysis of an intended target’s current and past role in plots threatening U.S. persons; relevant intelligence information the individual could provide; and the potential impact of the operation on ongoing terrorism plotting, on the capabilities of terrorist organizations, on U.S. foreign relations, and on U.S. intelligence collection. Such analysis will inform consideration of whether the individual meets both the legal and policy standards for the operation.
Other Key Elements
U.S. Persons. If the United States considers an operation against a terrorist identified as a U.S. person, the Department of Justice will conduct an additional legal analysis to ensure that such action may be conducted against the individual consistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States.
Reservation of Authority. These new standards and procedures do not limit the President’s authority to take action in extraordinary circumstances when doing so is both lawful and necessary to protect the United States or its allies.
Congressional Notification. Since entering office, the President has made certain that the appropriate Members of Congress have been kept fully informed about our counterterrorism operations. Consistent with this strong and continuing commitment to congressional oversight, appropriate Members of the Congress will be regularly provided with updates identifying any individuals against whom lethal force has been approved. In addition, the appropriate committees of Congress will be notified whenever a counterterrorism operation covered by these standards and procedures has been conducted.
 Non-combatants are individuals who may not be made the object of attack under applicable international law. The term “non-combatant” does not include an individual who is part of a belligerent party to an armed conflict, an individual who is taking a direct part in hostilities, or an individual who is targetable in the exercise of national self-defense. Males of military age may be non-combatants; it is not the case that all military-aged males in the vicinity of a target are deemed to be combatants.
Categories: White House News
News from the White House - 2 hours 44 min ago
It’s an honor to return to the National Defense University. Here, at Fort McNair, Americans have served in uniform since 1791– standing guard in the early days of the Republic, and contemplating the future of warfare here in the 21st century.
For over two centuries, the United States has been bound together by founding documents that defined who we are as Americans, and served as our compass through every type of change. Matters of war and peace are no different. Americans are deeply ambivalent about war, but having fought for our independence, we know that a price must be paid for freedom. From the Civil War, to our struggle against fascism, and through the long, twilight struggle of the Cold War, battlefields have changed, and technology has evolved. But our commitment to Constitutional principles has weathered every war, and every war has come to an end.
With the collapse of the Berlin Wall, a new dawn of democracy took hold abroad, and a decade of peace and prosperity arrived at home. For a moment, it seemed the 21st century would be a tranquil time. Then, on September 11th 2001, we were shaken out of complacency. Thousands were taken from us, as clouds of fire, metal and ash descended upon a sun-filled morning. This was a different kind of war. No armies came to our shores, and our military was not the principal target. Instead, a group of terrorists came to kill as many civilians as they could.
And so our nation went to war. We have now been at war for well over a decade. I won’t review the full history. What’s clear is that we quickly drove al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, but then shifted our focus and began a new war in Iraq. This carried grave consequences for our fight against al Qaeda, our standing in the world, and – to this day – our interests in a vital region.
Meanwhile, we strengthened our defenses – hardening targets, tightening transportation security, and giving law enforcement new tools to prevent terror. Most of these changes were sound. Some caused inconvenience. But some, like expanded surveillance, raised difficult questions about the balance we strike between our interests in security and our values of privacy. And in some cases, I believe we compromised our basic values – by using torture to interrogate our enemies, and detaining individuals in a way that ran counter to the rule of law.
After I took office, we stepped up the war against al Qaeda, but also sought to change its course. We relentlessly targeted al Qaeda’s leadership. We ended the war in Iraq, and brought nearly 150,000 troops home. We pursued a new strategy in Afghanistan, and increased our training of Afghan forces. We unequivocally banned torture, affirmed our commitment to civilian courts, worked to align our policies with the rule of law, and expanded our consultations with Congress.
Today, Osama bin Laden is dead, and so are most of his top lieutenants. There have been no large-scale attacks on the United States, and our homeland is more secure. Fewer of our troops are in harm’s way, and over the next 19 months they will continue to come home. Our alliances are strong, and so is our standing in the world. In sum, we are safer because of our efforts.
Now make no mistake: our nation is still threatened by terrorists. From Benghazi to Boston, we have been tragically reminded of that truth. We must recognize, however, that the threat has shifted and evolved from the one that came to our shores on 9/11. With a decade of experience to draw from, now is the time to ask ourselves hard questions – about the nature of today’s threats, and how we should confront them.
These questions matter to every American. For over the last decade, our nation has spent well over a trillion dollars on war, exploding our deficits and constraining our ability to nation build here at home. Our service-members and their families have sacrificed far more on our behalf. Nearly 7,000 Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice. Many more have left a part of themselves on the battlefield, or brought the shadows of battle back home. From our use of drones to the detention of terrorist suspects, the decisions we are making will define the type of nation – and world – that we leave to our children.
So America is at a crossroads. We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us, mindful of James Madison’s warning that “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” Neither I, nor any President, can promise the total defeat of terror. We will never erase the evil that lies in the hearts of some human beings, nor stamp out every danger to our open society. What we can do – what we must do – is dismantle networks that pose a direct danger, and make it less likely for new groups to gain a foothold, all while maintaining the freedoms and ideals that we defend. To define that strategy, we must make decisions based not on fear, but hard-earned wisdom. And that begins with understanding the threat we face.
Today, the core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on a path to defeat. Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us. They did not direct the attacks in Benghazi or Boston. They have not carried out a successful attack on our homeland since 9/11. Instead, what we’ve seen is the emergence of various al Qaeda affiliates. From Yemen to Iraq, from Somalia to North Africa, the threat today is more diffuse, with Al Qaeda’s affiliate in the Arabian Peninsula – AQAP –the most active in plotting against our homeland. While none of AQAP’s efforts approach the scale of 9/11 they have continued to plot acts of terror, like the attempt to blow up an airplane on Christmas Day in 2009.
Unrest in the Arab World has also allowed extremists to gain a foothold in countries like Libya and Syria. Here, too, there are differences from 9/11. In some cases, we confront state-sponsored networks like Hizbollah that engage in acts of terror to achieve political goals. Others are simply collections of local militias or extremists interested in seizing territory. While we are vigilant for signs that these groups may pose a transnational threat, most are focused on operating in the countries and regions where they are based. That means we will face more localized threats like those we saw in Benghazi, or at the BP oil facility in Algeria, in which local operatives – in loose affiliation with regional networks – launch periodic attacks against Western diplomats, companies, and other soft targets, or resort to kidnapping and other criminal enterprises to fund their operations.
Finally, we face a real threat from radicalized individuals here in the United States. Whether it’s a shooter at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin; a plane flying into a building in Texas; or the extremists who killed 168 people at the Federal Building in Oklahoma City – America has confronted many forms of violent extremism in our time. Deranged or alienated individuals – often U.S. citizens or legal residents – can do enormous damage, particularly when inspired by larger notions of violent jihad. That pull towards extremism appears to have led to the shooting at Fort Hood, and the bombing of the Boston Marathon.
Lethal yet less capable al Qaeda affiliates. Threats to diplomatic facilities and businesses abroad. Homegrown extremists. This is the future of terrorism. We must take these threats seriously, and do all that we can to confront them. But as we shape our response, we have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11. In the 1980s, we lost Americans to terrorism at our Embassy in Beirut; at our Marine Barracks in Lebanon; on a cruise ship at sea; at a disco in Berlin; and on Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie. In the 1990s, we lost Americans to terrorism at the World Trade Center; at our military facilities in Saudi Arabia; and at our Embassy in Kenya. These attacks were all deadly, and we learned that left unchecked, these threats can grow. But if dealt with smartly and proportionally, these threats need not rise to the level that we saw on the eve of 9/11.
Moreover, we must recognize that these threats don’t arise in a vacuum. Most, though not all, of the terrorism we face is fueled by a common ideology – a belief by some extremists that Islam is in conflict with the United States and the West, and that violence against Western targets, including civilians, is justified in pursuit of a larger cause. Of course, this ideology is based on a lie, for the United States is not at war with Islam; and this ideology is rejected by the vast majority of Muslims, who are the most frequent victims of terrorist acts.
Nevertheless, this ideology persists, and in an age in which ideas and images can travel the globe in an instant, our response to terrorism cannot depend on military or law enforcement alone. We need all elements of national power to win a battle of wills and ideas. So let me discuss the components of such a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy.
First, we must finish the work of defeating al Qaeda and its associated forces.
In Afghanistan, we will complete our transition to Afghan responsibility for security. Our troops will come home. Our combat mission will come to an end. And we will work with the Afghan government to train security forces, and sustain a counter-terrorism force which ensures that al Qaeda can never again establish a safe-haven to launch attacks against us or our allies.
Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror’ – but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America. In many cases, this will involve partnerships with other countries. Thousands of Pakistani soldiers have lost their lives fighting extremists. In Yemen, we are supporting security forces that have reclaimed territory from AQAP. In Somalia, we helped a coalition of African nations push al Shabaab out of its strongholds. In Mali, we are providing military aid to a French-led intervention to push back al Qaeda in the Maghreb, and help the people of Mali reclaim their future.
Much of our best counter-terrorism cooperation results in the gathering and sharing of intelligence; the arrest and prosecution of terrorists. That’s how a Somali terrorist apprehended off the coast of Yemen is now in prison in New York. That’s how we worked with European allies to disrupt plots from Denmark to Germany to the United Kingdom. That’s how intelligence collected with Saudi Arabia helped us stop a cargo plane from being blown up over the Atlantic.
But despite our strong preference for the detention and prosecution of terrorists, sometimes this approach is foreclosed. Al Qaeda and its affiliates try to gain a foothold in some of the most distant and unforgiving places on Earth. They take refuge in remote tribal regions. They hide in caves and walled compounds. They train in empty deserts and rugged mountains.
In some of these places – such as parts of Somalia and Yemen – the state has only the most tenuous reach into the territory. In other cases, the state lacks the capacity or will to take action. It is also not possible for America to simply deploy a team of Special Forces to capture every terrorist. And even when such an approach may be possible, there are places where it would pose profound risks to our troops and local civilians– where a terrorist compound cannot be breached without triggering a firefight with surrounding tribal communities that pose no threat to us, or when putting U.S. boots on the ground may trigger a major international crisis.
To put it another way, our operation in Pakistan against Osama bin Laden cannot be the norm. The risks in that case were immense; the likelihood of capture, although our preference, was remote given the certainty of resistance; the fact that we did not find ourselves confronted with civilian casualties, or embroiled in an extended firefight, was a testament to the meticulous planning and professionalism of our Special Forces – but also depended on some luck. And even then, the cost to our relationship with Pakistan – and the backlash among the Pakistani public over encroachment on their territory – was so severe that we are just now beginning to rebuild this important partnership.
It is in this context that the United States has taken lethal, targeted action against al Qaeda and its associated forces, including with remotely piloted aircraft commonly referred to as drones. As was true in previous armed conflicts, this new technology raises profound questions – about who is targeted, and why; about civilian casualties, and the risk of creating new enemies; about the legality of such strikes under U.S. and international law; about accountability and morality.
Let me address these questions. To begin with, our actions are effective. Don’t take my word for it. In the intelligence gathered at bin Laden’s compound, we found that he wrote, “we could lose the reserves to the enemy’s air strikes. We cannot fight air strikes with explosives.” Other communications from al Qaeda operatives confirm this as well. Dozens of highly skilled al Qaeda commanders, trainers, bomb makers, and operatives have been taken off the battlefield. Plots have been disrupted that would have targeted international aviation, U.S. transit systems, European cities and our troops in Afghanistan. Simply put, these strikes have saved lives.
Moreover, America’s actions are legal. We were attacked on 9/11. Within a week, Congress overwhelmingly authorized the use of force. Under domestic law, and international law, the United States is at war with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces. We are at war with an organization that right now would kill as many Americans as they could if we did not stop them first. So this is a just war – a war waged proportionally, in last resort, and in self-defense.
And yet as our fight enters a new phase, America’s legitimate claim of self-defense cannot be the end of the discussion. To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective, is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance. For the same human progress that gives us the technology to strike half a world away also demands the discipline to constrain that power – or risk abusing it. That’s why, over the last four years, my Administration has worked vigorously to establish a framework that governs our use of force against terrorists – insisting upon clear guidelines, oversight and accountability that is now codified in Presidential Policy Guidance that I signed yesterday.
In the Afghan war theater, we must support our troops until the transition is complete at the end of 2014. That means we will continue to take strikes against high value al Qaeda targets, but also against forces that are massing to support attacks on coalition forces. However, by the end of 2014, we will no longer have the same need for force protection, and the progress we have made against core al Qaeda will reduce the need for unmanned strikes.
Beyond the Afghan theater, we only target al Qaeda and its associated forces. Even then, the use of drones is heavily constrained. America does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists - our preference is always to detain, interrogate, and prosecute them. America cannot take strikes wherever we choose – our actions are bound by consultations with partners, and respect for state sovereignty. America does not take strikes to punish individuals – we act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people, and when there are no other governments capable of effectively addressing the threat. And before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured – the highest standard we can set.
This last point is critical, because much of the criticism about drone strikes – at home and abroad – understandably centers on reports of civilian casualties. There is a wide gap between U.S. assessments of such casualties, and non-governmental reports. Nevertheless, it is a hard fact that U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties, a risk that exists in all wars. For the families of those civilians, no words or legal construct can justify their loss. For me, and those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live, just as we are haunted by the civilian casualties that have occurred through conventional fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But as Commander-in-Chief, I must weigh these heartbreaking tragedies against the alternatives. To do nothing in the face of terrorist networks would invite far more civilian casualties – not just in our cities at home and facilities abroad, but also in the very places –like Sana’a and Kabul and Mogadishu – where terrorists seek a foothold. Let us remember that the terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes.
Where foreign governments cannot or will not effectively stop terrorism in their territory, the primary alternative to targeted, lethal action is the use of conventional military options. As I’ve said, even small Special Operations carry enormous risks. Conventional airpower or missiles are far less precise than drones, and likely to cause more civilian casualties and local outrage. And invasions of these territories lead us to be viewed as occupying armies; unleash a torrent of unintended consequences; are difficult to contain; and ultimately empower those who thrive on violent conflict. So it is false to assert that putting boots on the ground is less likely to result in civilian deaths, or to create enemies in the Muslim world. The result would be more U.S. deaths, more Blackhawks down, more confrontations with local populations, and an inevitable mission creep in support of such raids that could easily escalate into new wars.
So yes, the conflict with al Qaeda, like all armed conflict, invites tragedy. But by narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us, and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life. Indeed, our efforts must also be measured against the history of putting American troops in distant lands among hostile populations. In Vietnam, hundreds of thousands of civilians died in a war where the boundaries of battle were blurred. In Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the courage and discipline of our troops, thousands of civilians have been killed. So neither conventional military action, nor waiting for attacks to occur, offers moral safe-harbor. Neither does a sole reliance on law enforcement in territories that have no functioning police or security services – and indeed, have no functioning law.
This is not to say that the risks are not real. Any U.S. military action in foreign lands risks creating more enemies, and impacts public opinion overseas. Our laws constrain the power of the President, even during wartime, and I have taken an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States. The very precision of drones strikes, and the necessary secrecy involved in such actions can end up shielding our government from the public scrutiny that a troop deployment invites. It can also lead a President and his team to view drone strikes as a cure-all for terrorism.
For this reason, I’ve insisted on strong oversight of all lethal action. After I took office, my Administration began briefing all strikes outside of Iraq and Afghanistan to the appropriate committees of Congress. Let me repeat that – not only did Congress authorize the use of force, it is briefed on every strike that America takes. That includes the one instance when we targeted an American citizen: Anwar Awlaki, the chief of external operations for AQAP.
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. 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.
But when a U.S. citizen goes abroad to wage war against America – and is actively plotting to kill U.S. citizens; and when neither the United States, nor our partners are in a position to capture him before he carries out a plot – his citizenship should no more serve as a shield than a sniper shooting down on an innocent crowd should be protected from a swat team
That’s who Anwar Awlaki was – he was continuously trying to kill people. He helped oversee the 2010 plot to detonate explosive devices on two U.S. bound cargo planes. He was involved in planning to blow up an airliner in 2009. When Farouk Abdulmutallab – the Christmas Day bomber – went to Yemen in 2009, Awlaki hosted him, approved his suicide operation, and helped him tape a martyrdom video to be shown after the attack. His last instructions were to blow up the airplane when it was over American soil. I would have detained and prosecuted Awlaki if we captured him before he carried out a plot. But we couldn’t. And as President, I would have been derelict in my duty had I not authorized the strike that took out Awlaki.
Of course, the targeting of any Americans raises constitutional issues that are not present in other strikes – which is why my Administration submitted information about Awlaki to the Department of Justice months before Awlaki was killed, and briefed the Congress before this strike as well. But the high threshold that we have set for taking lethal action applies to all potential terrorist targets, regardless of whether or not they are American citizens. This threshold respects the inherent dignity of every human life. Alongside the decision to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way, the decision to use force against individuals or groups – even against a sworn enemy of the United States – is the hardest thing I do as President. But these decisions must be made, given my responsibility to protect the American people.
Going forward, I have asked my Administration to review proposals to extend oversight of lethal actions outside of warzones that go beyond our reporting to Congress. Each option has virtues in theory, but poses difficulties in practice. For example, the establishment of a special court to evaluate and authorize lethal action has the benefit of bringing a third branch of government into the process, but raises serious constitutional issues about presidential and judicial authority. Another idea that’s been suggested – the establishment of an independent oversight board in the executive branch – avoids those problems, but may introduce a layer of bureaucracy into national-security decision-making, without inspiring additional public confidence in the process. Despite these challenges, I look forward to actively engaging Congress to explore these – and other – options for increased oversight.
I believe, however, that the use of force must be seen as part of a larger discussion about a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy. Because for all the focus on the use of force, force alone cannot make us safe. We cannot use force everywhere that a radical ideology takes root; and in the absence of a strategy that reduces the well-spring of extremism, a perpetual war – through drones or Special Forces or troop deployments – will prove self-defeating, and alter our country in troubling ways.
So the next element of our strategy involves addressing the underlying grievances and conflicts that feed extremism, from North Africa to South Asia. As we’ve learned this past decade, this is a vast and complex undertaking. We must be humble in our expectation that we can quickly resolve deep rooted problems like poverty and sectarian hatred. Moreover, no two countries are alike, and some will undergo chaotic change before things get better. But our security and values demand that we make the effort.
This means patiently supporting transitions to democracy in places like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya – because the peaceful realization of individual aspirations will serve as a rebuke to violent extremists. We must strengthen the opposition in Syria, while isolating extremist elements – because the end of a tyrant must not give way to the tyranny of terrorism. We are working to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians – because it is right, and because such a peace could help reshape attitudes in the region. And we must help countries modernize economies, upgrade education, and encourage entrepreneurship – because American leadership has always been elevated by our ability to connect with peoples’ hopes, and not simply their fears.
Success on these fronts requires sustained engagement, but it will also require resources. I know that foreign aid is one of the least popular expenditures – even though it amounts to less than one percent of the federal budget. But foreign assistance cannot be viewed as charity. It is fundamental to our national security, and any sensible long-term strategy to battle extremism. Moreover, foreign assistance is a tiny fraction of what we spend fighting wars that our assistance might ultimately prevent. For what we spent in a month in Iraq at the height of the war, we could be training security forces in Libya, maintaining peace agreements between Israel and its neighbors, feeding the hungry in Yemen, building schools in Pakistan, and creating reservoirs of goodwill that marginalize extremists.
America cannot carry out this work if we do not have diplomats serving in dangerous places. Over the past decade, we have strengthened security at our Embassies, and I am implementing every recommendation of the Accountability Review Board which found unacceptable failures in Benghazi. I have called on Congress to fully fund these efforts to bolster security, harden facilities, improve intelligence, and facilitate a quicker response time from our military if a crisis emerges.
But even after we take these steps, some irreducible risks to our diplomats will remain. This is the price of being the world’s most powerful nation, particularly as a wave of change washes over the Arab World. And in balancing the trade-offs between security and active diplomacy, I firmly believe that any retreat from challenging regions will only increase the dangers we face in the long run.
Targeted action against terrorists. Effective partnerships. Diplomatic engagement and assistance. Through such a comprehensive strategy we can significantly reduce the chances of large scale attacks on the homeland and mitigate threats to Americans overseas. As we guard against dangers from abroad, however, we cannot neglect the daunting challenge of terrorism from within our borders.
As I said earlier, this threat is not new. But technology and the Internet increase its frequency and lethality. Today, a person can consume hateful propaganda, commit themselves to a violent agenda, and learn how to kill without leaving their home. To address this threat, two years ago my Administration did a comprehensive review, and engaged with law enforcement. The best way to prevent violent extremism is to work with the Muslim American community – which has consistently rejected terrorism – to identify signs of radicalization, and partner with law enforcement when an individual is drifting towards violence. And these partnerships can only work when we recognize that Muslims are a fundamental part of the American family. Indeed, the success of American Muslims, and our determination to guard against any encroachments on their civil liberties, is the ultimate rebuke to those who say we are at war with Islam.
Indeed, thwarting homegrown plots presents particular challenges in part because of our proud commitment to civil liberties for all who call America home. That’s why, in the years to come, we will have to keep working hard to strike the appropriate balance between our need for security and preserving those freedoms that make us who we are. That means reviewing the authorities of law enforcement, so we can intercept new types of communication, and build in privacy protections to prevent abuse. That means that – even after Boston – we do not deport someone or throw someone in prison in the absence of evidence. That means putting careful constraints on the tools the government uses to protect sensitive information, such as the State Secrets doctrine. And that means finally having a strong Privacy and Civil Liberties Board to review those issues where our counter-terrorism efforts and our values may come into tension.
The Justice Department’s investigation of national security leaks offers a recent example of the challenges involved in striking the right balance between our security and our open society. As Commander-in Chief, I believe we must keep information secret that protects our operations and our people in the field. To do so, we must enforce consequences for those who break the law and breach their commitment to protect classified information. But a free press is also essential for our democracy. I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable.
Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs. Our focus must be on those who break the law. That is why I have called on Congress to pass a media shield law to guard against government over-reach. I have raised these issues with the Attorney General, who shares my concern. So he has agreed to review existing Department of Justice guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters, and will convene a group of media organizations to hear their concerns as part of that review. And I have directed the Attorney General to report back to me by July 12th.
All these issues remind us that the choices we make about war can impact – in sometimes unintended ways – the openness and freedom on which our way of life depends. And that is why I intend to engage Congress about the existing Authorization to Use Military Force, or AUMF, to determine how we can continue to fight terrorists without keeping America on a perpetual war-time footing.
The AUMF is now nearly twelve years old. The Afghan War is coming to an end. Core al Qaeda is a shell of its former self. Groups like AQAP must be dealt with, but in the years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States. Unless we discipline our thinking and our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight, or continue to grant Presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states. So 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. Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.
And that brings me to my final topic: the detention of terrorist suspects.
To repeat, as a matter of policy, the preference of the United States is to capture terrorist suspects. When we do detain a suspect, we interrogate them. And if the suspect can be prosecuted, we decide whether to try him in a civilian court or a Military Commission. During the past decade, the vast majority of those detained by our military were captured on the battlefield. In Iraq, we turned over thousands of prisoners as we ended the war. In Afghanistan, we have transitioned detention facilities to the Afghans, as part of the process of restoring Afghan sovereignty. So we bring law of war detention to an end, and we are committed to prosecuting terrorists whenever we can.
The glaring exception to this time-tested approach is the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. The original premise for opening GTMO – that detainees would not be able to challenge their detention – was found unconstitutional five years ago. In the meantime, GTMO has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law. Our allies won’t cooperate with us if they think a terrorist will end up at GTMO. During a time of budget cuts, we spend $150 million each year to imprison 166 people –almost $1 million per prisoner. And the Department of Defense estimates that we must spend another $200 million to keep GTMO open at a time when we are cutting investments in education and research here at home.
As President, I have tried to close GTMO. I transferred 67 detainees to other countries before Congress imposed restrictions to effectively prevent us from either transferring detainees to other countries, or imprisoning them in the United States. These restrictions make no sense. After all, under President Bush, some 530 detainees were transferred from GTMO with Congress’s support. When I ran for President the first time, John McCain supported closing GTMO. No person has ever escaped from one of our super-max or military prisons in the United States. Our courts have convicted hundreds of people for terrorism-related offenses, including some who are more dangerous than most GTMO detainees. Given my Administration’s relentless pursuit of al Qaeda’s leadership, there is no justification beyond politics for Congress to prevent us from closing a facility that should never have been opened.
Today, I once again call on Congress to lift the restrictions on detainee transfers from GTMO. I have asked the Department of Defense to designate a site in the United States where we can hold military commissions. I am appointing a new, senior envoy at the State Department and Defense Department whose sole responsibility will be to achieve the transfer of detainees to third countries. I am lifting the moratorium on detainee transfers to Yemen, so we can review them on a case by case basis. To the greatest extent possible, we will transfer detainees who have been cleared to go to other countries. Where appropriate, we will bring terrorists to justice in our courts and military justice system. And we will insist that judicial review be available for every detainee.
Even after we take these steps, one issue will remain: how to deal with those GTMO detainees who we know have participated in dangerous plots or attacks, but who cannot be prosecuted – for example because the evidence against them has been compromised or is inadmissible in a court of law. But once we commit to a process of closing GTMO, I am confident that this legacy problem can be resolved, consistent with our commitment to the rule of law.
I know the politics are hard. But history will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism, and those of us who fail to end it. Imagine a future – ten years from now, or twenty years from now – when the United States of America is still holding people who have been charged with no crime on a piece of land that is not a part of our country. Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are holding a hunger strike. Is that who we are? Is that something that our Founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave to our children?
Our sense of justice is stronger than that. We have prosecuted scores of terrorists in our courts. That includes Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up an airplane over Detroit; and Faisal Shahzad, who put a car bomb in Times Square. It is in a court of law that we will try Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is accused of bombing the Boston Marathon. Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, is as we speak serving a life sentence in a maximum security prison here, in the United States. In sentencing Reid, Judge William Young told him, “the way we treat you…is the measure of our own liberties.” He went on to point to the American flag that flew in the courtroom – “That flag,” he said, “will fly there long after this is all forgotten. That flag still stands for freedom.”
America, we have faced down dangers far greater than al Qaeda. By staying true to the values of our founding, and by using our constitutional compass, we have overcome slavery and Civil War; fascism and communism. In just these last few years as President, I have watched the American people bounce back from painful recession, mass shootings, and natural disasters like the recent tornados that devastated Oklahoma. These events were heartbreaking; they shook our communities to the core. But because of the resilience of the American people, these events could not come close to breaking us.
I think of Lauren Manning, the 9/11 survivor who had severe burns over 80 percent of her body, who said, “That’s my reality. I put a Band-Aid on it, literally, and I move on.”
I think of the New Yorkers who filled Times Square the day after an attempted car bomb as if nothing had happened.
I think of the proud Pakistani parents who, after their daughter was invited to the White House, wrote to us, “we have raised an American Muslim daughter to dream big and never give up because it does pay off.”
I think of the wounded warriors rebuilding their lives, and helping other vets to find jobs.
I think of the runner planning to do the 2014 Boston Marathon, who said, “Next year, you are going to have more people than ever. Determination is not something to be messed with.”
That’s who the American people are. Determined, and not to be messed with.
Now, we need a strategy – and a politics –that reflects this resilient spirit. Our victory against terrorism won’t be measured in a surrender ceremony on a battleship, or a statue being pulled to the ground. Victory will be measured in parents taking their kids to school; immigrants coming to our shores; fans taking in a ballgame; a veteran starting a business; a bustling city street. The quiet determination; that strength of character and bond of fellowship; that refutation of fear – that is both our sword and our shield. And long after the current messengers of hate have faded from the world’s memory, alongside the brutal despots, deranged madmen, and ruthless demagogues who litter history – the flag of the United States will still wave from small-town cemeteries, to national monuments, to distant outposts abroad. And that flag will still stand for freedom.
Thank you. God Bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.
Categories: White House News
Huffington Post News - 2 hours 50 min ago
Maybe the problem is that rape is an extension of military culture. And it's metastasizing, even as legislation to address it stays trapped in congressional... Robert Koehler http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-koehler/
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 2 hours 52 min ago
In the midst of a growing crisis over sexual assault in the U.S. military, a bipartisan group of senators and representatives proposed a bill on... Laura Bassett http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-bassett/
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 2 hours 58 min ago
Technology and tax law have led to the emergence of what international tax analyst Ed Kleinbard calls "stateless income," a phenomenon that was on full display at the Apple hearing yesterday. Jared Bernstein http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jared-bernstein/
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 2 hours 59 min ago
Singer Tony Orlando and comedian Yakov Smirnoff have both endorsed a candidate for Arkansas state treasurer in next year's election. As first reported by Politics1.com,... John Celock http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-celock/
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 3 hours 2 min ago
One of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's (R) picks for her reelection committee in February has now been accused of being a white supremacist, Raw... The Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gabrielle-dunkley/
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 3 hours 5 min ago
Out of great challenges come even greater opportunities to lead. The recent survey revealing 26,000 military members experienced unwanted sexual contact last year is one... Barbara Lee http://www.huffingtonpost.com/barbara-lee/
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 3 hours 6 min ago
Here's a fact that may make your blood boil: Nearly 8,000 Occupy Wall Street protesters have been arrested in association with the activist movement, while... The Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/caroline-fairchild/
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 3 hours 9 min ago
The head of a pro-life group in Michigan made a controversial comparison on Wednesday, arguing that women in the state should be forced to pay... The Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/preston-maddock/
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 3 hours 16 min ago
Welcome to the gay rights battleground of Virginia. Yes, you read that right. In the 2013 off-year elections, a state that once leaned solidly to... www.politico.com http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christopher-rudolph/
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 3 hours 18 min ago
FORT MCNAIR, WASHINGTON -- Faced with growing questions over the legality and scope of his counterrorism policy from Congress and elsewhere, President Barack Obama said... Ryan J. Reilly http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ryan-j-reilly/
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 3 hours 19 min ago
WASHINGTON -- The Senate on Thursday unanimously confirmed key Obama nominee Sri Srinivasan to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, a vote that comes amid... Jennifer Bendery http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jennifer-bendery/
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 3 hours 21 min ago
By Corrie MacLaggan AUSTIN, Texas, May 22 (Reuters) - Texas came a step closer to requiring some applicants for unemployment benefits to first undergo drug... Reuters http://www.huffingtonpost.com/reuters/
Categories: Political News and Opinion