Obama Refuses to Talk About Drone 'Kill List' with Ohio Reporter

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Common Dreams

Obama Refuses to Talk About Drone 'Kill List' with Ohio Reporter

How does this President justify having a "Presidential kill list"?

by
Common Dreams staff

(Amarjit Sidhu/Al Arabiya)

For months now, President Obama has refused to hold a press conference with the national press -- choosing instead to talk with local media in the swing states that could decide November's election.

This past Monday, while visiting Toledo, Ohio, Obama granted an interview with Cincinnati's FOX19 TV reporter Ben Swann.

In a segment called "Reality Check", Swann writes:

When you only have 5 minutes with the President, you have to choose your questions wisely and there is very little time for a follow up...

Tonight, how does this President justify having that so-called "Presidential kill list"?

Swann asked Obama about the targeted killings without trials — including the death of two American citizens — Obama refused to confirm or deny the program.

"First of all, you're basing this on reports in the news that have never been confirmed by me. And I don't talk about our national security decisions in that way. Our goal has been to focus on al-Qaeda, to focus narrowly on those who pose an eminent threat to the United States of America," Obama said.

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In a May 29, 2012 New York Times piece titled "Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will" three dozen of his current and former advisers described Mr. Obama’s role in the 'Kill List' program:

Mr. Obama is the liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war and torture, and then insisted on approving every new name on an expanding “kill list,” poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies on what one official calls the macabre “baseball cards” of an unconventional war. When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises — but his family is with him — it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.

“He is determined that he will make these decisions about how far and wide these operations will go,” said Thomas E. Donilon, his national security adviser. “His view is that he’s responsible for the position of the United States in the world.” He added, “He’s determined to keep the tether pretty short.”

Nothing else in Mr. Obama’s first term has baffled liberal supporters and confounded conservative critics alike as his aggressive counterterrorism record. His actions have often remained inscrutable, obscured by awkward secrecy rules, polarized political commentary and the president’s own deep reserve.

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In a Politico report today titled 'Obama Won't Talk About Drones':

[...] Obama's reticence to discuss the program is a bit at odds with previous administration efforts to bring more transparency to the program — which officials insist is carefully targeted, legal and justified.

The details of the drone program is all but an open secret now and the Obama administration itself has pledged more transparency about the program.

Obama himself acknowledged a Pakistani drone and targeted killing program in a January online chat, when he was asked about it. Administration officials denied that Obama slipped up in revealing the program.

A few months later, Obama's counterterrorism and homeland security adviser John Brennan delivered specific remarks laying out the scope, legality and ethics of the drone programs at the Woodrow Wilson center.

"Staying true to our values as a nation also includes upholding the transparency upon which our democracy depends," Brennan said.

Attorney General Eric Holder spoke in Chicago about the legal justification the administration used to kill al-Awlaki.

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