Eric Holder Acknowledges U.S. Killed Four Americans in Drone Strikes, Pentagon Asking for $450 Million for Gitmo; President Obama to Talk Targeted Killings, Closing Gitmo Tomorrow
Big counterterrorism speech expected from President Obama tomorrow
Barack Obama will speak at the National Defense University tomorrow, where's he's expected to address his counterterrorism policies, including targeted killings, the war on Al-Qaeda, and closing Guantanamo Bay.
The administration has now acknowledged killing four Americans in its targeted killing campaign, though only Anwar al-Awlaki, already widely reported to have been killed in a U.S. strike, was identified as being specifically targeted. In a letter to Congress, Attorney General Eric Holder also admitted the U.S. killed three other Americans in addition to al-Awlaki, including his teenage son, and another American, Jude Muhammad, in a drone strike in Pakistan, though none of those Americans were "specifically targeted."*
Prior to the election, Obama and his team pushed the idea that they had decimated Al-Qaeda and left its remnants on the run. The Justice Department's seizure of phone records from the AP suggests the source of a leak that contradicted that message in May 2012 (by providing the AP info about an alleged foiled Al-Qaeda plot) is now being aggressively sought out. Was revealing the plot a threat to national security or to the narrative of a defeated Al-Qaeda that presents no threat, as the government insisted even as it allegedly foiled a terror plot?
As for the detention facility in Gitmo, the president blames Congressional intransigence on his inability to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, and Democratic lawmakers agree. But what's Obama doing for his part? The AP reports the Obama administration is requesting upward of $450 million to spend on Gitmo, including $200 million for upgrades of the "temporary" facility. The prison at Guantanamo Bay was opened in January of 2002 and the president promised to close it, signing an executive order to that effect, more than four years ago. A now more than a hundred-day-old hunger strike by many of the prisoners at Gitmo helped push Obama to last month renew his promise to shut the facility down. The ACLU said then it "welcomed the president's continued commitment" to closing Gitmo. The Pentagon's budget request provides a price tag on the commitment to keeping it open.
But the reality probably won't prevent the president from giving a speech rich in the rhetoric of the rule of law and respect for human rights.
*Update: Edited based on text of Holder letter, to which a link has been added.