President Obama spoke in unprecedented detail Thursday about the U.S. drone program, as he adamantly defended the controversial strikes as legal and necessary to national security — while announcing that he was setting new limits on their use.
The president for the first time personally acknowledged that U.S. drone strikes have killed several Americans overseas, only one of whom was targeted, after Attorney General Eric Holder made the information public a day earlier.
In a wide-ranging speech on counterterrorism policy, the president also renewed his call for the closure of Guantanamo Bay. Angering some Republican lawmakers, Obama urged Congress to lift restrictions on transferring detainees and revealed the Defense Department is now looking for a U.S.-based site to hold military commissions.
But much of the address was devoted to addressing long-standing concerns about the drone program. He confirmed that, a day earlier, he signed a directive setting guidelines for the strikes — he said the strikes will only be authorized against terrorists who pose a “continuing and imminent threat” to Americans, and when there is a “near-certainty” that civilians will not be killed or hurt. He also said he’s open to new proposals for congressional oversight.