Obama defends drone strikes, reignites Gitmo debate in crucial speech

by Stephen Dinan-The Washington Times  |  published on May 24, 2013

U.S. drone strikes have killed four Americans, including one who was “specifically targeted” and three others who were not targets, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a letter to Congress on Wednesday, publicly confirming the strikes for the first time.

The revelation was made a day before President Obama lays out a drone policy in a major speech at the National Defense University, where he also is expected to reignite his push to transfer detainees from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which houses suspected terrorists.

“He will discuss why the use of drone strikes is necessary, legal and just, while addressing the various issues raised by our use of targeted action,” a White House official said Wednesday night, previewing the remarks on the condition of anonymity.

The official also said Mr. Obama has signed guidance laying out the full standards for lethal strikes, and Mr. Holder said in his letter that classified guidance will be provided to some members of Congress.

After news reports last year revealed the extent of the drone strike program, Mr. Obama promised to seek firmer legal footing for the program by going to Congress with more details, and Wednesday’s letter was the first step in that.

In the five-page letter, Mr. Holder said the U.S. specifically targeted Anwar al-Awlaki in a September 2011 drone strike in Yemen. He also listed the three other Americans who he said had been incidentally killed in strikes: Samir Khan, Jude Kenan Mohammed and Abderrahman Anwar al-Awlaki, the targeted man’s son.

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