21 May 2013

Obama set for defence and counterterrorism address

Summary: President Obama plans to reiterate his administration’s views on evolving counterterrorism policies, the controversial use of drones and his renewed plans to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

In line with a 2012 Pentagon review, the US military has recently increased its reliance on unmanned ‘drone’ aircraft in targeting terrorist suspects. However, the policy has run into opposition from human rights groups who draw attention to the ‘unnecessary loss of civilian life’ caused by the unmanned aircraft.

Earlier this year it was reported that the Obama administration was in the process of drawing up a formal rulebook setting out the circumstances in which targeted assassinations by drones would be justified. In Thursday’s speech, the President is expected to further outline the legal case for their use.

In addition, earlier this month President Obama restated his views on Guantanamo, saying: “It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing. It lessens co-operation with our allies on counter-terrorism efforts. It is a recruitment for extremists. It needs to be closed.”

The controversial detention camp has proven to be a running sore of the Obama administration. Having pledged to shut the camp in his 2008 campaign and again after taking office, Obama was blocked by Congress with following through with the promise.

The renewed focus on Guantánamo Bay comes amid a 100-day hunger strike among inmates combined with reports on conditions at the camp and force-feedings, leading to calls to close the camp for good.

According to the Washington Post’s White House source, Thursday’s speech will be used to “review our detention policy and efforts to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay”.

The speech has been described as an attempt by Obama to follow through on the pledges he made in his State of the Union address in February, to “continue to engage 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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