President Obama has publicly disclosed what he says are his administration’s criteria for carrying out drone strikes and targeted assassinations abroad. Obama spoke to CNN in some of his most extensive comments on the drone attacks to date.
President Obama: “It has to be a target that is authorized by our laws. It has to be a threat that is serious and not speculative. It has to be a situation in which we can’t capture the individual before they move forward on some sort of operational plot against the United States. And this is an example of where I think there’s been some misreporting. Our preference is always to capture, if we can, because we can gather intelligence. But a lot of the terrorist networks that target the United States, the most dangerous ones, operate in very remote regions, and it’s very difficult to capture them. And we’ve got to make sure that, in whatever operations we conduct, we are very careful about avoiding civilian casualties.”
Obama’s comments come days after at least 11 civilians were killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen, including three children. Obama also told CNN that U.S. citizens are entitled to what he called “due process.”
President Obama: “I think there’s no doubt that when an American has made the decision to affiliate himself with al-Qaeda and target fellow Americans, that there is a legal justification for us to try to stop them from carrying out plots. What is also true, though, is that as an American citizen, they are subject to the protections of the Constitution and due process.”
Obama made no direct mention of any of the three U.S. citizens killed overseas, including the 16-year-old teenager Abdulrahman al-Awlaki.