In a key speech on counterterrorism policies and drone strikes, President Obama invited Congress on Thursday to consider ways for “increased oversight” of lethal action outside warzones, including creation of a secret court or an executive branch panel. He said each option “poses difficulties in practice.”
Here are Obama’s specific remarks on the topic, taken from a text of his speech as prepared for delivery:
“Going forward, I have asked my Administration to review proposals to extend oversight of lethal actions outside of warzones that go beyond our reporting to Congress. Each option has virtues in theory, but poses difficulties in practice. For example, the establishment of a special court to evaluate and authorize lethal action has the benefit of bringing a third branch of government into the process, but raises serious constitutional issues about presidential and judicial authority. Another idea that’s been suggested – the establishment of an independent oversight board in the executive branch – avoids those problems, but may introduce a layer of bureaucracy into national-security decision-making, without inspiring additional public confidence in the process. Despite these challenges, I look forward to actively engaging Congress to explore these – and other – options for increased oversight.”
In his speech, the president asked Congress to lift restrictions on the transfer of detainees from Guantánamo Bay, as part of his renewed efforts to shutter the detention facility there.
He spoke of “hundreds” of successful prosecutions in U.S. civilian courts of defendants on terrorism-related charges and said, “Where appropriate, we will bring terrorists to justice in our courts and military justice system. And we will insist that judicial review be available for every detainee.”
Early coverage included Washington Post, “Obama Outlines Tightened Rules on Use of Drones;” New York Times, “Obama Narrows Scope of Terror Fight;” and Fox News, “Obama defends US drone program, says it has ‘saved lives.'”