National Security Brief: Obama To Transfer Gitmo Detainees, Rein In Targeted Killing Program

President Obama is expected to announce in a speech outlining his administration’s refined counterterrorism policies that he will begin transferring detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison and begin placing tighter restrictions on the targeted killing program.

“While he isn’t planning to detail how to speed up transfers from the prison,” the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, “officials said the president in coming weeks plans to lift the administration’s prohibition on sending detainees to Yemen.”

Also on Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder, in a letter to Congress, said the administration has finished its counterterrorism “playbook” and the New York Times reports that based on that policy guidance, Obama “will sharply curtail the instances when unmanned aircraft can be used to attack in places that are not overt war zones, countries like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The rules will impose the same standard for strikes on foreign enemies now used only for American citizens deemed to be terrorists.”

Holder said that lethal force will now only be used in cases where the suspect poses “a continuing, imminent threat to Americans” and cannot feasibly be captured, suggesting an end to so-called “signature strikes” that target behavior rather than a specific person for a specific purpose.


In other news:

  • The Senate passed bipartisan measure on Wednesday to put more sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, while a new sanctions bill passed a House committee. The measure has 338 co-sponsors, “a clear sign of bipartisan impatience on Capitol Hill with Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.”
  • The Washington Post reports: The United States and its partners will widen support for Syrian rebels, potentially by sending more weapons or taking other measures short of sending American forces, if diplomacy fails to end a civil war that has killed “upwards of 100,000” people, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Wednesday.
  • The AP reports: Members of a House panel angry over the growing epidemic of sexual assaults in the military took a key step toward tackling the problem by passing legislation Wednesday that would strip commanding officers of their long-standing authority to unilaterally change or dismiss court-martial convictions in rape and assault cases. Lawmakers believe the revision will lead to a cultural shift and encourage victims to step forward.