News Release

Obama on Guantanamo and Drone Killing


President Obama is scheduled to speak at the National Defense University today at 2 p.m. on his drone killing policies and holding individuals at Guantanamo, about 100 of whom are reportedly currently on a hunger strike. The New York Times reports: “the administration on Wednesday formally acknowledged for the first time that it had killed four American citizens in drone strikes outside the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, arguing that its actions were justified by the danger to the United States.”

CARLOS WARNER, carloswarnerlaw at, @Carlos_Warner
Warner is an attorney with the Federal Public Defender of the Northern District of Ohio. He represents 11 Guantanamo prisoners. He said today: “Lifting the Executive Order restricting transfers to Yemen is a good start. More importantly, if the President is serious about closing the prison, he must appoint someone with power within the White House. If the President only pledges to reopen an office in the State Department and start the Periodic Review Boards, he is not serious about closing Guantanamo.”

BRUCE FEIN, bruce at
Fein was deputy attorney general under President Ronald Reagan and is author of Constitutional Peril: The Life and Death Struggle for Our Constitution and Democracy. He said today regarding reports that execution of drone strikes will shift in many cases from the CIA to the Pentagon: “This would be a step backward on transparency, would mean even less congressional oversight. Will not be reported as covert actions to House and Senate Intelligence Committees. CIA must report anticipated covert actions to Intelligence Committees under Title 50. Title 10 for military has no such thing.”

Regarding reports that the administration would end so-called “signature strikes” — which can be based on traits such as males of a certain age range, Fein stated: “It insinuates signature strikes have been illegal homicides.”

Fein stated: “The Constitution’s makers deplored the combination of legislative, executive, and judicial powers in a single branch as the very definition of tyranny. President Obama thus shoulders a heavy burden in seeking to explain how his playing prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner to kill any citizen or non-citizen anywhere on the planet justified by his secret say-so alone, unaccountable to federal courts or congressional oversight, satisfies constitutional due process and the separation of powers. The Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin never claimed greater unchecked authority in liquidating the kulaks and exterminating all his perceived enemies.”

Fein recently write the piece “Learning From Shakespeare” and recently wrote a letter with Ralph Nader to Obama: “In light of your obligation to explain ‘by what authority,’ we were dismayed that you refused to send a witness to testify on April 23, 2013, regarding the legality of your predator drone targeted and signature killing programs before Senator Richard Durbin’s Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution. That disdain for the rule of law and congressional oversight contrasts unfavorably with President Gerald Ford’s willingness to testify personally before a House Judiciary Subcommittee on his pardon of former President Richard Nixon.”

NOOR MIR, noor at, @thedronalisa
ROOJ ALWAZIR, Rooj129 at, @WomanfromYemen
McCracken, Mir, Alwazir and Benjamin — who wrote the book Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control — are activists who will be holding a news conference outside Obama’s speech venue beginning at 11 a.m., organized by CodePink.

REBECCA GRIFFIN, via Reva Patwardhan, rpatwardhan at
Griffin is political director for Peace Action West. She said today: “The administration has ramped up a dangerous tactic that could have far-reaching consequences. According to the New America Foundation, only 2 percent of those killed in drone strikes in Pakistan are militant leaders. While the administration claims that it focuses on terrorists that pose an imminent threat, the white paper leaked from the Justice Department shows a definition of imminence that goes far beyond people on the verge of carrying out attacks on the United States. The administration uses the nearly twelve-year-old Authorization for the Use of Military Force as part of its legal justification for drone strikes, going well beyond its original scope. Military officials claimed in a recent Senate hearing that it would authorize use of force almost anywhere in the world, prompting Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) to call it the ‘most astoundingly disturbing hearing’ he had been to in the Senate.

“The administration is risking blowback and killing innocent civilians without making a case that these targets pose a serious imminent threat to our security. Furthermore, this administration is setting a dangerous precedent for future presidents, as well as other countries, for the broad use of armed drones.”