National Security Brief: Obama Pledges Transparency In Terror Fight

President Obama didn’t mention “drones” or “unmanned aerial vehicles” in his State of the Union speech last night, but the implication was clear. To meet the threat from al Qaeda affiliates and other extremist groups in Africa and the Arabian peninsula, Obama said, “we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad or occupy other nations. Instead, we’ll need to help countries like Yemen, Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security and help allies who take the fight to terrorists.” The president stressed that his administration is working within a lawful framework in conducting counterterror operations there and added:

“And I recognize that, in our democracy, no one should just take my word for it that we’re doing things the right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.”

The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple compiled some reaction on Twitter to Obama’s pledge.

In other news:

  • Obama also announced in his speech that the U.S. will reduce its troop level in Afghanistan by half over the next year, leaving around 30,000 soldiers there next spring. “And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over,” he said. CAP’s Caroline Wadhams has more on managing the political transition in Afghanistan.
  • The New York Times reports: President Obama signed an executive order on Tuesday that promotes increased information sharing about cyberthreats between the government and private companies that oversee the country’s critical infrastructure, offering a weakened alternative to legislation the administration had hoped Congress would pass last year.
  • The U.N.’s top human rights official said yesterday that the death toll in Syria is likely approaching 70,000, up 10,000 from the start of the year, and that civilians are bearing the brunt of the conflict there.
  • The Times also reports: As it prepares for two sets of negotiations with outsiders on its disputed nuclear program, Iran said on Tuesday that it was converting some of its enriched uranium into reactor fuel, the state news agency IRNA reported, potentially limiting the expansion of stockpiles that the West fears could be used for weapons.