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Full Text of Obama’s Speech on War on Terror “a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks” by partnering with jihadist enablers

16

The President has decided, five years into his presidency, to finally address the gravest threat to our nation and the West in the wake of a bloody wave of jihad attacks under his sloppy and feckless watch.

"Victory will be measured in parents taking their kids to school; immigrants coming to our shores; fans taking in a ballgame; a veteran starting a business; a bustling city street"

What does that even mean? He speaks of "victory" when he is the architect of defeat. He speaks of victory while the Fort Hood victims languish and the slaughtering jihadist Hasan still has not been brought to trial, but has received over a quarter of a million dollars in compensation.

What is his plan? To partner with Muslim Brotherhood groups in America that work feverishly to "eliminate and destroy" America from within. Obama said today, "the best way to prevent violent extremism is to work with the Muslim
American community – which has consistently rejected terrorism – to
identify signs of radicalization, and partner with law enforcement when
an individual is drifting towards violence."
Robert Spencer said:

The Muslim American community has consistently rejected terrorism?
Four separate studies since 1998 have all found that 80% of U.S. mosques
were teaching jihad, Islamic supremacism, and hatred and contempt for
Jews and Christians. There are no countervailing studies that challenge
these results. In 1998, Sheikh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, a Sufi leader,
visited 114 mosques in the United States. Then he gave testimony before a State Department Open Forum in January 1999, and asserted that 80% of American mosques taught the “extremist ideology.”

Then there was the Center for Religious Freedom’s 2005 study, and the Mapping Sharia Project’s 2008 study.
Each independently showed that upwards of 80% of mosques in America
were preaching hatred of Jews and Christians and the necessity
ultimately to impose Islamic rule.

And in the summer of 2011 came another study showing that only 19% of mosques in U.S. don’t teach jihad violence and/or Islamic supremacism. 

What's his plan? To close GITMO and release the killers, when we know the recidivism rate is extraordinarily high. He stands by his drone attacks while having denied the motive of jihadic doctrine. He is killing Americans and yet he whines that we "compromised
our basic values
by using torture to interrogate our enemies." He is denigrating the Bush administration's waterboarding three killers that saved thousands of lives and led to the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Our soldiers are waterboarded so that they understand the process. Who does this poser think he's kidding — he kills people, spies on journalists, and abandons our Ambassador and other Americans in Libya, and he is preaching to us?

He says that there have been no large scale attacks in the US. I disagree. Scores of large scale attacks were thwarted. That counts. And Fort Hood and Boston were large scale. Hundreds of people living with shrapnel, broken flesh and bone and …… the dead.

Our delusional President claims that our standing in the world is what it was. I beg to differ. We are much weaker under his reign. Obama's abandonment of our allies in Egypt, Libya, Israel, and Eastern Europe have weakened our hegemony and influence in those regions.

Obama claims that "unrest in the Arab World has also allowed extremists to gain a
foothold in countries like Libya and Syria." That, too, is a deliberate misrepresentation of what happened. Obama backed jihadists. That's what happened in the Muslim world. Did he think that backing jihadists in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and now Syria would end well?

What's his plan? Why didn't Obama mention that his administration scrubbed all counter terrorism materials and manuals of jihad and Islam — disarming law enforcement and counter terrorism officials? Where did that get us? Boston.

When Obama speaks of the threat on our shores, he only cites the rare non-Muslim attacks:

"Finally, we face a real threat from radicalized individuals here in
the United States.
Whether it’s a shooter at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin;
a plane flying into a building in Texas; or the extremists who killed
168 people at the Federal Building in Oklahoma City

Not the hundreds of thwarted and in some cases successful acts of jihad here:

BROOKLYN BRIDGE
Iyman Faris, a U.S.-based, al Qaeda operative, planned to cut the
bridge's support cables but was deterred, in part, by the NYPD's 24-hour
coverage of the bridge. Faris sent al Qaeda leaders a coded message
that, "the weather is too hot," indicating he could not carry out the
mission. He was arrested in 2003, pleaded guilty and sentenced to
federal prison.

SUBWAY CYANIDE – A plot to disperse
cyanide gas in the subway system was called off at the last minute by
Iyman Zawahiri for what he said was "something bigger."

NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE & CITIGROUP HEADQUARTERS
– Al Qaeda plot to use vehicles to bomb the New York Stock Exchange,
Citibank, and other financial institutions. NYPD tactical teams were
deployed to high-threat locations, and vehicle inspections were
increased in response. Dhiren Barot/Issa al-Hindi, an associate of
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, pleaded guilty in 2006.

GARMENT DISTRICT PLOT
The NYPD and FBI arrested Uzair Paracha for material support of
terrorism in New York based on intelligence developed overseas. Paracha
is reported to have discussed with top al Qaeda leaders the prospect of
smuggling weapons and explosives possibly even a nuclear deviceinto
Manhattan's Garment District through his father's import-export
business.

HERALD SQUARE SUBWAY STATION An NYPD
undercover officer helped disrupt a 2004 plot to bomb the Herald Square
subway station by lone-wolf admirers of Al Qaeda. Shahawar Matin Siraj
and James Elshafay conspired to blow up the 34th Street subway station,
including surveilling the subway station, choosing the location for
their bombs, and diagramming entrances and exits.

PATH TRAIN and WTC RETAINING WALL
A multi-agency investigation disrupted a plot to attack NYC's
underground transit link with New Jersey in 2006. Law enforcement
monitoring international chat rooms discovered suspects' plan to destroy
a PATH train tunnel and the retaining wall at Ground Zero, to flood the
New York Financial District. The main operative was taken into custody
in Lebanon and admitted to plotting the attack.

JFK AIRPORT/BUCKEYE PIPELINE
– Al Qaeda sympathizers plotted to bomb the fuel tanks and pipeline at
John F. Kennedy Airport, through which jet fuel is transported from New
Jersey through Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Queens. Four suspects were
arrested in New York and Trinidad in 2007; three were later sentenced to
life in prison.

TRANSATLANTIC PLOT A British-based
plot to destroy seven commercial aircraft over the Atlantic Ocean or fly
one or more of them into East Coast targets including New York City
resulted in multiple arrests in London.

LONG ISLAND RAILROAD
– A plot to bomb a Manhattan-bound LIRR commuter train was discussed at
the highest levels of al Qaeda operational leadership. See Bryant Neal
Vinas, of Long Island.

BRONX SYNAGOGUES Disrupted in
May 2009, the Riverdale plot targeted two Jewish centersa synagogue and
a Jewish community centerin the Bronx, and Stewart Air Base in
Newburgh, NY. The NYPD and FBI arrested four men who were convicted in
2010.

NYC SUBWAY & TRANSIT HUBS – In September
2009, Najibullah Zazi and others planned a series of coordinated suicide
bombings of NYC subway transit hubs at rush hour.

TIMES SQUARE Faisal Shahzad attempted on May 1, 2010 to detonate a bomb inside an SUV parked in Times Square on a busy Saturday night.

MANHATTAN SYNAGOGUE
– The NYPD disrupted a plot by two Queens men, Ahmed Ferhani and
Mohamed Mamdouh, to bomb a synagogue in Manhattan in May 2011.

JOSE PIMENTEL
– Muslim convert Jose Pimentel was arrested in November 2011 in
Manhattan as he constructed bombs and plotted to killer soldiers
returning home to New York from Afghanistan and Iraq. He had followed
instructions in an article from Al Qaeda's English-language magazine
"Inspire" on "How to Build a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom."

JESSE MORTON; REVOLUTION MUSLIM:
The case of Jesse Morton, a New York City-based Muslim convert,
resulted from NYPD monitoring, combined with the investigative and
prosecutorial expertise of the FBI and the U.S. Attorney for Eastern
District of Virginia. Morton was apprehended in Morocco and pleaded
guilty in Feb. 2012 to soliciting murder and encouraging violence via
the Internet; Morton was sentenced in June to 138 months in prison
followed by three years of supervised release, for using his position as
a leader of the "Revolution Muslim" organization's internet sites to
conspire to solicit murder and encourage violent extremism. His partner
Zachary Chesser was sentenced for providing material support to al
Shabaab, communicating threats and soliciting acts of extremism,
including against the creators of South Park. Chesser and Morton were
associates of Mohamed Alessa and Carlos Almonte, two New Jersey men who
pleaded guilty in March 2011 to conspiring to murder individuals
overseas on behalf of a foreign terrorist group.

He goes on to explain that jihadists are lying when they quote quran chapter and verse and wage war in the case of Islam. Obama said, "this ideology is based on a lie, for the United States is
not at war with Islam."
No, it is Obama who is lying about the ideology. And while we may not be at war with Islam, clearly there is a significant part of Islam that is at war with us.

US President Barack
Obama speaks about his administration’s drone and counterterrorism
policies, as well as the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, at the
National Defense University in Washington, D.C., May 23, 2013.

President Barack Obama
is reasserting his case that closing Guantanamo is crucial to U.S.
counterterrorism goals, and is making a defense of the controversial
drone program, in a speech at the National Defense University. A White
House official said the audience is made up of students from NDU;
national security, counter-terrorism, legal and human rights experts;
and U.S. government officials.

Here is the text of his speech, as prepared for delivery.

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

May 23, 2013

The Future of our Fight against Terrorism

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery

National Defense University

May 23, 2013

As Prepared for Delivery —

It’s an honor to return to the National Defense University. Here, at
Fort McNair, Americans have served in uniform since 1791– standing guard
in the early days of the Republic, and contemplating the future of
warfare here in the 21st century.

For over two centuries, the United States has been bound together by
founding documents that defined who we are as Americans, and served as
our compass through every type of change. Matters of war and peace are
no different. Americans are deeply ambivalent about war, but having
fought for our independence, we know that a price must be paid for
freedom. From the Civil War, to our struggle against fascism, and
through the long, twilight struggle of the Cold War, battlefields have
changed, and technology has evolved. But our commitment to
Constitutional principles has weathered every war, and every war has
come to an end.

With the collapse of the Berlin Wall, a new dawn of democracy took
hold abroad, and a decade of peace and prosperity arrived at home. For a
moment, it seemed the 21st century would be a tranquil time. Then, on September 11th
2001, we were shaken out of complacency. Thousands were taken from us,
as clouds of fire, metal and ash descended upon a sun-filled morning.
This was a different kind of war. No armies came to our shores, and our
military was not the principal target. Instead, a group of terrorists
came to kill as many civilians as they could.

And so our nation went to war. We have now been at war for well over a
decade. I won’t review the full history. What’s clear is that we
quickly drove al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, but then shifted our focus
and began a new war in Iraq. This carried grave consequences for our
fight against al Qaeda, our standing in the world, and – to this day –
our interests in a vital region.

Meanwhile, we strengthened our defenses – hardening targets,
tightening transportation security, and giving law enforcement new tools
to prevent terror. Most of these changes were sound. Some caused
inconvenience. But some, like expanded surveillance, raised difficult
questions about the balance we strike between our interests in security
and our values of privacy. And in some cases, I believe we compromised
our basic values – by using torture to interrogate our enemies, and
detaining individuals in a way that ran counter to the rule of law.

After I took office, we stepped up the war against al Qaeda, but also
sought to change its course. We relentlessly targeted al Qaeda’s
leadership. We ended the war in Iraq, and brought nearly 150,000 troops
home. We pursued a new strategy in Afghanistan, and increased our
training of Afghan forces. We unequivocally banned torture, affirmed our
commitment to civilian courts, worked to align our policies with the
rule of law, and expanded our consultations with Congress.

Today, Osama bin Laden is dead, and so are most of his top
lieutenants. There have been no large-scale attacks on the United
States,
and our homeland is more secure. Fewer of our troops are in
harm’s way, and over the next 19 months they will continue to come home.
Our alliances are strong, and so is our standing in the world. In sum,
we are safer because of our efforts.

Now make no mistake: our nation is still threatened by terrorists.
From Benghazi to Boston, we have been tragically reminded of that truth.
We must recognize, however, that the threat has shifted and evolved
from the one that came to our shores on 9/11. With a decade of
experience to draw from, now is the time to ask ourselves hard questions
– about the nature of today’s threats, and how we should confront them.

These questions matter to every American. For over the last decade,
our nation has spent well over a trillion dollars on war, exploding our
deficits and constraining our ability to nation build here at home. Our
service-members and their families have sacrificed far more on our
behalf. Nearly 7,000 Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice. Many
more have left a part of themselves on the battlefield, or brought the
shadows of battle back home. From our use of drones to the detention of
terrorist suspects, the decisions we are making will define the type of
nation – and world – that we leave to our children.

So America is at a crossroads. We must define the nature and scope of
this struggle, or else it will define us, mindful of James Madison’s
warning that “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of
continual warfare.” Neither I, nor any President, can promise the total
defeat of terror. We will never erase the evil that lies in the hearts
of some human beings, nor stamp out every danger to our open society.
What we can do – what we must do – is dismantle networks that pose a
direct danger, and make it less likely for new groups to gain a
foothold, all while maintaining the freedoms and ideals that we defend.
To define that strategy, we must make decisions based not on fear, but
hard-earned wisdom. And that begins with understanding the threat we
face.

Today, the core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on a path
to defeat. Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about
their own safety than plotting against us. They did not direct the
attacks in Benghazi or Boston.
They have not carried out a successful
attack on our homeland since 9/11. Instead, what we’ve seen is the
emergence of various al Qaeda affiliates. From Yemen to Iraq, from
Somalia to North Africa, the threat today is more diffuse, with Al
Qaeda’s affiliate in the Arabian Peninsula – AQAP –the most active in
plotting against our homeland. While none of AQAP’s efforts approach the
scale of 9/11 they have continued to plot acts of terror, like the
attempt to blow up an airplane on Christmas Day in 2009.

Unrest in the Arab World has also allowed extremists to gain a
foothold in countries like Libya and Syria.
Here, too, there are
differences from 9/11. In some cases, we confront state-sponsored
networks like Hizbollah that engage in acts of terror to achieve
political goals. Others are simply collections of local militias or
extremists interested in seizing territory. While we are vigilant for
signs that these groups may pose a transnational threat, most are
focused on operating in the countries and regions where they are based.
That means we will face more localized threats like those we saw in
Benghazi, or at the BP oil facility in Algeria, in which local
operatives – in loose affiliation with regional networks – launch
periodic attacks against Western diplomats, companies, and other soft
targets, or resort to kidnapping and other criminal enterprises to fund
their operations.

Finally, we face a real threat from radicalized individuals here in
the United States. Whether it’s a shooter at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin;
a plane flying into a building in Texas; or the extremists who killed
168 people at the Federal Building in Oklahoma City
– America has
confronted many forms of violent extremism in our time. Deranged or
alienated individuals – often U.S. citizens or legal residents – can do
enormous damage, particularly when inspired by larger notions of violent
jihad. That pull towards extremism appears to have led to the shooting
at Fort Hood, and the bombing of the Boston Marathon.

Lethal yet less capable al Qaeda affiliates. Threats to diplomatic
facilities and businesses abroad. Homegrown extremists. This is the
future of terrorism.
We must take these threats seriously, and do all
that we can to confront them. But as we shape our response, we have to
recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of
attacks we faced before 9/11. In the 1980s, we lost Americans to
terrorism at our Embassy in Beirut; at our Marine Barracks in Lebanon;
on a cruise ship at sea; at a disco in Berlin; and on Pan Am Flight 103
over Lockerbie. In the 1990s, we lost Americans to terrorism at the
World Trade Center; at our military facilities in Saudi Arabia; and at
our Embassy in Kenya. These attacks were all deadly, and we learned that
left unchecked, these threats can grow. But if dealt with smartly and
proportionally, these threats need not rise to the level that we saw on
the eve of 9/11.

Moreover, we must recognize that these threats don’t arise in a
vacuum. Most, though not all, of the terrorism we face is fueled by a
common ideology – a belief by some extremists that Islam is in conflict
with the United States and the West, and that violence against Western
targets, including civilians, is justified in pursuit of a larger cause.
Of course, this ideology is based on a lie, for the United States is
not at war with Islam; and this ideology is rejected by the vast
majority of Muslims, who are the most frequent victims of terrorist
acts.

Nevertheless, this ideology persists, and in an age in which ideas
and images can travel the globe in an instant, our response to terrorism
cannot depend on military or law enforcement alone. We need all
elements of national power to win a battle of wills and ideas. So let me
discuss the components of such a comprehensive counter-terrorism
strategy.

First, we must finish the work of defeating al Qaeda and its associated forces.

In Afghanistan, we will complete our transition to Afghan
responsibility for security. Our troops will come home. Our combat
mission will come to an end. And we will work with the Afghan government
to train security forces, and sustain a counter-terrorism force which
ensures that al Qaeda can never again establish a safe-haven to launch
attacks against us or our allies.

Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our effort not as a boundless
‘global war on terror’ – but rather as a series of persistent, targeted
efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that
threaten America.
In many cases, this will involve partnerships with
other countries. Thousands of Pakistani soldiers have lost their lives
fighting extremists. In Yemen, we are supporting security forces that
have reclaimed territory from AQAP. In Somalia, we helped a coalition of
African nations push al Shabaab out of its strongholds. In Mali, we are
providing military aid to a French-led intervention to push back al
Qaeda in the Maghreb, and help the people of Mali reclaim their future.

Much of our best counter-terrorism cooperation results in the
gathering and sharing of intelligence; the arrest and prosecution of
terrorists. That’s how a Somali terrorist apprehended off the coast of
Yemen is now in prison in New York. That’s how we worked with European
allies to disrupt plots from Denmark to Germany to the United Kingdom.
That’s how intelligence collected with Saudi Arabia helped us stop a
cargo plane from being blown up over the Atlantic.

But despite our strong preference for the detention and prosecution
of terrorists, sometimes this approach is foreclosed. Al Qaeda and its
affiliates try to gain a foothold in some of the most distant and
unforgiving places on Earth. They take refuge in remote tribal regions.
They hide in caves and walled compounds. They train in empty deserts and
rugged mountains.

In some of these places – such as parts of Somalia and Yemen – the
state has only the most tenuous reach into the territory. In other
cases, the state lacks the capacity or will to take action. It is also
not possible for America to simply deploy a team of Special Forces to
capture every terrorist. And even when such an approach may be possible,
there are places where it would pose profound risks to our troops and
local civilians– where a terrorist compound cannot be breached without
triggering a firefight with surrounding tribal communities that pose no
threat to us, or when putting U.S. boots on the ground may trigger a
major international crisis.

To put it another way, our operation in Pakistan against Osama bin
Laden cannot be the norm.
The risks in that case were immense; the
likelihood of capture, although our preference, was remote given the
certainty of resistance; the fact that we did not find ourselves
confronted with civilian casualties, or embroiled in an extended
firefight, was a testament to the meticulous planning and
professionalism of our Special Forces – but also depended on some luck.
And even then, the cost to our relationship with Pakistan – and the
backlash among the Pakistani public over encroachment on their territory
– was so severe that we are just now beginning to rebuild this
important partnership.

It is in this context that the United States has taken lethal,
targeted action against al Qaeda and its associated forces, including
with remotely piloted aircraft commonly referred to as drones. As was
true in previous armed conflicts, this new technology raises profound
questions – about who is targeted, and why; about civilian casualties,
and the risk of creating new enemies; about the legality of such strikes
under U.S. and international law; about accountability and morality.

Let me address these questions. To begin with, our actions are
effective. Don’t take my word for it. In the intelligence gathered at
bin Laden’s compound, we found that he wrote, “we could lose the
reserves to the enemy’s air strikes. We cannot fight air strikes with
explosives.” Other communications from al Qaeda operatives confirm this
as well. Dozens of highly skilled al Qaeda commanders, trainers, bomb
makers, and operatives have been taken off the battlefield. Plots have
been disrupted that would have targeted international aviation, U.S.
transit systems, European cities and our troops in Afghanistan. Simply
put, these strikes have saved lives.

Moreover, America’s actions are legal. We were attacked on 9/11.
Within a week, Congress overwhelmingly authorized the use of force.
Under domestic law, and international law, the United States is at war
with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces. We are at war
with an organization that right now would kill as many Americans as they
could if we did not stop them first. So this is a just war – a war
waged proportionally, in last resort, and in self-defense.

And yet as our fight enters a new phase, America’s legitimate claim
of self-defense cannot be the end of the discussion. To say a military
tactic is legal, or even effective, is not to say it is wise or moral in
every instance. For the same human progress that gives us the
technology to strike half a world away also demands the discipline to
constrain that power – or risk abusing it. That’s why, over the last
four years, my Administration has worked vigorously to establish a
framework that governs our use of force against terrorists – insisting
upon clear guidelines, oversight and accountability that is now codified
in Presidential Policy Guidance that I signed yesterday.

In the Afghan war theater, we must support our troops until the
transition is complete at the end of 2014. That means we will continue
to take strikes against high value al Qaeda targets, but also against
forces that are massing to support attacks on coalition forces. However,
by the end of 2014, we will no longer have the same need for force
protection, and the progress we have made against core al Qaeda will
reduce the need for unmanned strikes.

Beyond the Afghan theater, we only target al Qaeda and its associated
forces. Even then, the use of drones is heavily constrained. America
does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual
terrorists – our preference is always to detain, interrogate, and
prosecute them. America cannot take strikes wherever we choose – our
actions are bound by consultations with partners, and respect for state
sovereignty. America does not take strikes to punish individuals – we
act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the
American people, and when there are no other governments capable of
effectively addressing the threat. And before any strike is taken, there
must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured –
the highest standard we can set.

This last point is critical, because much of the criticism about
drone strikes – at home and abroad – understandably centers on reports
of civilian casualties. There is a wide gap between U.S. assessments of
such casualties, and non-governmental reports. Nevertheless, it is a
hard fact that U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties, a risk
that exists in all wars. For the families of those civilians, no words
or legal construct can justify their loss. For me, and those in my chain
of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live, just as we
are haunted by the civilian casualties that have occurred through
conventional fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But as Commander-in-Chief, I must weigh these heartbreaking tragedies
against the alternatives. To do nothing in the face of terrorist
networks would invite far more civilian casualties – not just in our
cities at home and facilities abroad, but also in the very places –like
Sana’a and Kabul and Mogadishu – where terrorists seek a foothold. Let
us remember that the terrorists we are after target civilians, and the
death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any
estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes.

Where foreign governments cannot or will not effectively stop
terrorism in their territory, the primary alternative to targeted,
lethal action is the use of conventional military options. As I’ve said,
even small Special Operations carry enormous risks. Conventional
airpower or missiles are far less precise than drones, and likely to
cause more civilian casualties and local outrage. And invasions of these
territories lead us to be viewed as occupying armies; unleash a torrent
of unintended consequences; are difficult to contain; and ultimately
empower those who thrive on violent conflict. So it is false to assert
that putting boots on the ground is less likely to result in civilian
deaths, or to create enemies in the Muslim world. The result would be
more U.S. deaths, more Blackhawks down, more confrontations with local
populations, and an inevitable mission creep in support of such raids
that could easily escalate into new wars.

So yes, the conflict with al Qaeda, like all armed conflict, invites
tragedy. But by narrowly targeting our action against those who want to
kill us, and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course
of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life. Indeed,
our efforts must also be measured against the history of putting
American troops in distant lands among hostile populations. In Vietnam,
hundreds of thousands of civilians died in a war where the boundaries of
battle were blurred. In Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the courage and
discipline of our troops, thousands of civilians have been killed. So
neither conventional military action, nor waiting for attacks to occur,
offers moral safe-harbor. Neither does a sole reliance on law
enforcement in territories that have no functioning police or security
services – and indeed, have no functioning law.

This is not to say that the risks are not real. Any U.S. military
action in foreign lands risks creating more enemies, and impacts public
opinion overseas. Our laws constrain the power of the President, even
during wartime, and I have taken an oath to defend the Constitution of
the United States. The very precision of drones strikes, and the
necessary secrecy involved in such actions can end up shielding our
government from the public scrutiny that a troop deployment invites. It
can also lead a President and his team to view drone strikes as a
cure-all for terrorism.

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.

Of course, the targeting of any Americans raises constitutional
issues that are not present in other strikes – which is why my
Administration submitted information about Awlaki to the Department of
Justice months before Awlaki was killed, and briefed the Congress before
this strike as well. But the high threshold that we have set for taking
lethal action applies to all potential terrorist targets, regardless of
whether or not they are American citizens. This threshold respects the
inherent dignity of every human life. Alongside the decision to put our
men and women in uniform in harm’s way, the decision to use force
against individuals or groups – even against a sworn enemy of the United
States – is the hardest thing I do as President. But these decisions
must be made, given my responsibility to protect the American people.

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.

I believe, however, that the use of force must be seen as part of a
larger discussion about a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy.
Because for all the focus on the use of force, force alone cannot make
us safe. We cannot use force everywhere that a radical ideology takes
root; and in the absence of a strategy that reduces the well-spring of
extremism, a perpetual war – through drones or Special Forces or troop
deployments – will prove self-defeating, and alter our country in
troubling ways.

So the next element of our strategy involves addressing the
underlying grievances and conflicts that feed extremism, from North
Africa to South Asia. As we’ve learned this past decade, this is a vast
and complex undertaking. We must be humble in our expectation that we
can quickly resolve deep rooted problems like poverty and sectarian
hatred. Moreover, no two countries are alike, and some will undergo
chaotic change before things get better. But our security and values
demand that we make the effort.

This means patiently supporting transitions to democracy in places
like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya – because the peaceful realization of
individual aspirations will serve as a rebuke to violent extremists. We
must strengthen the opposition in Syria,
while isolating extremist
elements – because the end of a tyrant must not give way to the tyranny
of terrorism. We are working to promote peace between Israelis and
Palestinians – because it is right, and because such a peace could help
reshape attitudes in the region. And we must help countries modernize
economies, upgrade education, and encourage entrepreneurship – because
American leadership has always been elevated by our ability to connect
with peoples’ hopes, and not simply their fears.

Success on these fronts requires sustained engagement, but it will
also require resources. I know that foreign aid is one of the least
popular expenditures – even though it amounts to less than one percent
of the federal budget. But foreign assistance cannot be viewed as
charity. It is fundamental to our national security, and any sensible
long-term strategy to battle extremism. Moreover, foreign assistance is a
tiny fraction of what we spend fighting wars that our assistance might
ultimately prevent. For what we spent in a month in Iraq at the height
of the war, we could be training security forces in Libya, maintaining
peace agreements between Israel and its neighbors, feeding the hungry in
Yemen, building schools in Pakistan, and creating reservoirs of
goodwill that marginalize extremists.

America cannot carry out this work if we do not have diplomats
serving in dangerous places. Over the past decade, we have strengthened
security at our Embassies, and I am implementing every recommendation of
the Accountability Review Board which found unacceptable failures in
Benghazi. I have called on Congress to fully fund these efforts to
bolster security, harden facilities, improve intelligence, and
facilitate a quicker response time from our military if a crisis
emerges.

But even after we take these steps, some irreducible risks to our
diplomats will remain. This is the price of being the world’s most
powerful nation, particularly as a wave of change washes over the Arab
World. And in balancing the trade-offs between security and active
diplomacy, I firmly believe that any retreat from challenging regions
will only increase the dangers we face in the long run.

Targeted action against terrorists. Effective partnerships.
Diplomatic engagement and assistance. Through such a comprehensive
strategy we can significantly reduce the chances of large scale attacks
on the homeland and mitigate threats to Americans overseas. As we guard
against dangers from abroad, however, we cannot neglect the daunting
challenge of terrorism from within our borders.

As I said earlier, this threat is not new. But technology and the
Internet increase its frequency and lethality. Today, a person can
consume hateful propaganda, commit themselves to a violent agenda, and
learn how to kill without leaving their home. To address this threat,
two years ago my Administration did a comprehensive review, and engaged
with law enforcement. The best way to prevent violent extremism is to
work with the Muslim American community – which has consistently
rejected terrorism – to identify signs of radicalization, and partner
with law enforcement when an individual is drifting towards violence.
And these partnerships can only work when we recognize that Muslims are a
fundamental part of the American family. Indeed, the success of
American Muslims, and our determination to guard against any
encroachments on their civil liberties, is the ultimate rebuke to those
who say we are at war with Islam.

Indeed, thwarting homegrown plots presents particular challenges in
part because of our proud commitment to civil liberties for all who call
America home. That’s why, in the years to come, we will have to keep
working hard to strike the appropriate balance between our need for
security and preserving those freedoms that make us who we are. That
means reviewing the authorities of law enforcement, so we can intercept
new types of communication, and build in privacy protections to prevent
abuse. That means that – even after Boston – we do not deport someone or
throw someone in prison in the absence of evidence. That means putting
careful constraints on the tools the government uses to protect
sensitive information, such as the State Secrets doctrine. And that
means finally having a strong Privacy and Civil Liberties Board to
review those issues where our counter-terrorism efforts and our values
may come into tension.

The Justice Department’s investigation of national security leaks
offers a recent example of the challenges involved in striking the right
balance between our security and our open society. As Commander-in
Chief, I believe we must keep information secret that protects our
operations and our people in the field. To do so, we must enforce
consequences for those who break the law and breach their commitment to
protect classified information. But a free press is also essential for
our democracy. I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations
may chill the investigative journalism that holds government
accountable.

Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs. Our
focus must be on those who break the law. That is why I have called on
Congress to pass a media shield law to guard against government
over-reach. I have raised these issues with the Attorney General, who
shares my concern. So he has agreed to review existing Department of
Justice guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters, and
will convene a group of media organizations to hear their concerns as
part of that review. And I have directed the Attorney General to report
back to me by July 12th.

All these issues remind us that the choices we make about war can
impact – in sometimes unintended ways – the openness and freedom on
which our way of life depends. And that is why I intend to engage
Congress about the existing Authorization to Use Military Force, or
AUMF, to determine how we can continue to fight terrorists without
keeping America on a perpetual war-time footing.

The AUMF is now nearly twelve years old. The Afghan War is coming to
an end. Core al Qaeda is a shell of its former self. Groups like AQAP
must be dealt with, but in the years to come, not every collection of
thugs that labels themselves al Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the
United States. Unless we discipline our thinking and our actions, we
may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight, or continue to grant
Presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts
between nation states. So I look forward to engaging Congress and the
American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s
mandate. And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate
further. Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must
continue. But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history
advises. That’s what our democracy demands.

And that brings me to my final topic: the detention of terrorist suspects.

To repeat, as a matter of policy, the preference of the United States
is to capture terrorist suspects. When we do detain a suspect, we
interrogate them. And if the suspect can be prosecuted, we decide
whether to try him in a civilian court or a Military Commission. During
the past decade, the vast majority of those detained by our military
were captured on the battlefield. In Iraq, we turned over thousands of
prisoners as we ended the war. In Afghanistan, we have transitioned
detention facilities to the Afghans, as part of the process of restoring
Afghan sovereignty. So we bring law of war detention to an end, and we
are committed to prosecuting terrorists whenever we can.

The glaring exception to this time-tested approach is the detention
center at Guantanamo Bay. The original premise for opening GTMO – that
detainees would not be able to challenge their detention – was found
unconstitutional five years ago. In the meantime, GTMO has become a
symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law
. Our
allies won’t cooperate with us if they think a terrorist will end up at
GTMO. During a time of budget cuts, we spend $150 million each year to
imprison 166 people –almost $1 million per prisoner. And the Department
of Defense estimates that we must spend another $200 million to keep
GTMO open at a time when we are cutting investments in education and
research here at home.

As President, I have tried to close GTMO. I transferred 67 detainees
to other countries before Congress imposed restrictions to effectively
prevent us from either transferring detainees to other countries, or
imprisoning them in the United States. These restrictions make no sense.
After all, under President Bush, some 530 detainees were transferred
from GTMO with Congress’s support. When I ran for President the first
time, John McCain supported closing GTMO. No person has ever escaped
from one of our super-max or military prisons in the United States. Our
courts have convicted hundreds of people for terrorism-related offenses,
including some who are more dangerous than most GTMO detainees. Given
my Administration’s relentless pursuit of al Qaeda’s leadership, there
is no justification beyond politics for Congress to prevent us from
closing a facility that should never have been opened.

Today, I once again call on Congress to lift the restrictions on
detainee transfers from GTMO. I have asked the Department of Defense to
designate a site in the United States where we can hold military
commissions. I am appointing a new, senior envoy at the State Department
and Defense Department whose sole responsibility will be to achieve the
transfer of detainees to third countries. I am lifting the moratorium
on detainee transfers to Yemen, so we can review them on a case by case
basis. To the greatest extent possible, we will transfer detainees who
have been cleared to go to other countries. 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.

Even after we take these steps, one issue will remain: how to deal
with those GTMO detainees who we know have participated in dangerous
plots or attacks, but who cannot be prosecuted – for example because the
evidence against them has been compromised or is inadmissible in a
court of law. But once we commit to a process of closing GTMO, I am
confident that this legacy problem can be resolved, consistent with our
commitment to the rule of law.

I know the politics are hard. But history will cast a harsh judgment
on this aspect of our fight against terrorism, and those of us who fail
to end it. Imagine a future – ten years from now, or twenty years from
now – when the United States of America is still holding people who have
been charged with no crime on a piece of land that is not a part of our
country. Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding
detainees who are holding a hunger strike. Is that who we are? Is that
something that our Founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to
leave to our children?

Our sense of justice is stronger than that. We have prosecuted scores
of terrorists in our courts. That includes Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab,
who tried to blow up an airplane over Detroit; and Faisal Shahzad, who
put a car bomb in Times Square. It is in a court of law that we will try
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is accused of bombing the Boston Marathon.
Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, is as we speak serving a life sentence in
a maximum security prison here, in the United States. In sentencing
Reid, Judge William Young told him, “the way we treat you…is the measure
of our own liberties.” He went on to point to the American flag that
flew in the courtroom – “That flag,” he said, “will fly there long after
this is all forgotten. That flag still stands for freedom.”

America, we have faced down dangers far greater than al Qaeda. By
staying true to the values of our founding, and by using our
constitutional compass, we have overcome slavery and Civil War; fascism
and communism. In just these last few years as President, I have watched
the American people bounce back from painful recession, mass shootings,
and natural disasters like the recent tornados that devastated
Oklahoma. These events were heartbreaking; they shook our communities to
the core. But because of the resilience of the American people, these
events could not come close to breaking us.

I think of Lauren Manning, the 9/11 survivor who had severe burns
over 80 percent of her body, who said, “That’s my reality. I put a
Band-Aid on it, literally, and I move on.”

I think of the New Yorkers who filled Times Square the day after an attempted car bomb as if nothing had happened.

I think of the proud Pakistani parents who, after their daughter was
invited to the White House, wrote to us, “we have raised an American
Muslim daughter to dream big and never give up because it does pay off.”

I think of the wounded warriors rebuilding their lives, and helping other vets to find jobs.

I think of the runner planning to do the 2014 Boston Marathon, who
said, “Next year, you are going to have more people than ever.
Determination is not something to be messed with.”

That’s who the American people are. Determined, and not to be messed with.

Now, we need a strategy – and a politics –that reflects this
resilient spirit. Our victory against terrorism won’t be measured in a
surrender ceremony on a battleship, or a statue being pulled to the
ground. Victory will be measured in parents taking their kids to school;
immigrants coming to our shores; fans taking in a ballgame; a veteran
starting a business; a bustling city stree
t. The quiet determination;
that strength of character and bond of fellowship; that refutation of
fear – that is both our sword and our shield. And long after the current
messengers of hate have faded from the world’s memory, alongside the
brutal despots, deranged madmen, and ruthless demagogues who litter
history – the flag of the United States will still wave from small-town
cemeteries, to national monuments, to distant outposts abroad.  And that
flag will still stand for freedom.

 

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