Obama speech to outline counterterrorism policy

11:42 AM, May 23, 2013   |    comments
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(USA TODAY) - President Obama will outline new policies for overseas drone strikes and discuss renewed steps to close the terrorism prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during a major national security speech Thursday.

The speech will stream live on the homepage of WZZM13.com starting at 2:00pm.

He also will "lay out the framework for U.S. counterterrorism strategy as we wind down the war in Afghanistan, and as he looks forward to the rest of his second term," said a White House statement on the address, scheduled for 2 p.m. ET at National Defense University in Washington, D.C.

The remarks are also expected to include a discussion of how the terrorist threat has changed since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

While al-Qaeda has been severely damaged in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the White House now cites new threats "from al-Qaeda affiliates, localized extremist groups and homegrown terrorists."

The speech comes a day after the Obama administration revealed that drone strikes have killed four Americans, all terrorist suspects, in counterterrorism operations since 2009.

The White House said Obama "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."

Obama has also approved new "policy guidance" that sets out "standards under which we take lethal action," the White House said.

The president "will also discuss how to balance securing our country and protecting our civil liberties at home," said the statement.

That includes new steps Obama plans to take to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, a frequent target of criticism from civil libertarians. Some detainees at the prison are in the midst of a hunger strike, protesting their conditions.

Obama had pledged to close the facility during his first year in office. But his efforts ran afoul of congressional Republicans who opposed trials of terrorism suspects in the United States, and other countries that refused to take some prisoners.

In an April 30 news conference, Obama said he would renew his efforts to close Guantanamo because it "is not necessary to keep America safe. It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing. ... It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed."

Thursday's national security speech is a follow-up for the Feb. 12 State of the Union Address in which Obama pledged to be more open regarding his counterterrorism policies.

That night, Obama said that "in the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world."


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