President Obama didn't just use the Google+ "hangout" to not answer questions about marijuana. (Okay, that might have been Youtube and Google's fault, but never underestimate the powers of not talking about the drug war which happen when media and politicians' powers combine.) He also used the opportunity to admit that the United States' program of targeted drone strikes and assassinations, used throughout the Middle East, most heavily in Pakistan, does in fact exist. With the incredibly low standards that the Obama administration and politics in general demands, that's pretty bold. After all, the program still doesn't officially exist and most U.S. officials who have spoken about it with any detail of knowledge have been anonymous. Officials from the Obama administration noted that this confirmation was not a mistake from the president (not sure how it could have been when he talked about the program for four minutes).
The downside to Obama's declaration is that he also assured the Internet-viewing public that the strikes had "not caused a huge number of civilian casualties" and that it is "important for everybody to understand that this thing is kept on a very tight leash." These strikes are "for the most part very precise — precision strikes against Al-Qaeda and their affiliates" most often in Pakistan's Federally Administrated Tribal Areas.
Also, the way targets are chosen is apparently "not just a bunch of guys in a room somewhere making decisions." No, according to a December Washington Post article it's actually a bunch of guys in two rooms making decisions; there's a CIA list and a military list, with some overlap between them, but enough bureaucracy and secrecy to make sure that nobody has a completely clear view of how strikes happen and who is being targeted and why.
But yes, according to Obama the program exists but it has led to practically no civilian casualties, also everyone killed (which is in the the neighborhood of 2000 people since Obama took office) was a terrorist; also there's a lot of accountability and careful oversight. I guess it's supposed to be nice that the transparency-loathing president thinks his citizens are man enough to know that yes, that drone program the media talks about sometimes does exist.
Here's the clip if you feel like suffering through the whole four minutes. Props to the citizen who asked the hilariously cautious follow-up question about whether using drone strikes might cause other countries to "perceive" that we're "intervening in their affairs." How might America fix that crazy perception? Well, the president says that drones are an alternative to intervening more heavily in other countries, they in fact help us "respect the sovereignty" of those places because a strike is better than an all-out war. Which is more or less true and we already knew that, but it's a pretty damned arrogant and unsatisfying answer all the same. And yes Obama addressed the recent controversy over drone flights in Iraq —he said they're surveillance, not strikes — but maybe someone should remind him that the Iraqis already had their all-out war. So it would be more than fair if any American aircraft, even those flying peacefully over that U.S. embassy of 16,000 personnel, gives an Iraqi pause.
I would have preferred to hear him try to evade the pot question yet again.