Today President Barack Obama made a speech that set out to lift the veil on the secrecy surrounding U.S.-directed drone strikes around the world. During this speech Obama made reference to Anwar al-Awlaki — an American citizen who was believed to be a senior talent recruiter involved in planning terrorist operations for al-Qaeda.
The missle strike that killed New Mexican born-Awlaki has been placed in the limelight as it signifies the use of drones by the U.S. on U.S. citizens. Today Obama stated that it would have been “derelict” to “not authorize” the drone strike against Awalaki, which also killed two more American citizens — including Awlaki’s 16-year-old son.
For this reason, I’ve insisted on strong oversight of all lethal action. After I took office, my Administration began briefing all strikes outside of Iraq and Afghanistan to the appropriate committees of Congress. Let me repeat that – not only did Congress authorize the use of force, it is briefed on every strike that America takes. That includes the one instance when we targeted an American citizen: Anwar Awlaki, the chief of external operations for AQAP.
This week, I authorized the declassification of this action, and the deaths of three other Americans in drone strikes, to facilitate transparency and debate on this issue, and to dismiss some of the more outlandish claims. For the record, I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen – with a drone, or a shotgun – without due process. Nor should any President deploy armed drones over U.S.soil.
But when a U.S. citizen goes abroad to wage war against America – and is actively plotting to kill U.S. citizens; and when neither the United States, nor our partners are in a position to capture him before he carries out a plot – his citizenship should no more serve as a shield than a sniper shooting down on an innocent crowd should be protected from a swat team
That’s who Anwar Awlaki was – he was continuously trying to kill people. He helped oversee the 2010 plot to detonate explosive devices on two U.S. bound cargo planes. He was involved in planning to blow up an airliner in 2009. When Farouk Abdulmutallab – the Christmas Day bomber – went to Yemen in 2009, Awlaki hosted him, approved his suicide operation, and helped him tape a martyrdom video to be shown after the attack.His last instructions were to blow up the airplane when it was over American soil. I would have detained and prosecuted Awlaki if we captured him before he carried out a plot. But we couldn’t. And as President, I would have been derelict in my duty had I not authorized the strike that took out Awlaki.
According to the speech, Obama said that he does not condone the targeting of any American but claimed al-Awlaki was targeted only after exhausting means of capture and detention. As Obama continued his speech he outlined that force is not the only solution against radical ideology, resulting in a “perpetual war” which will be self-defeating.
Read the entire speech below: