By Jamie Crawford, CNN National Security Producer
From the targeted killing of Americans overseas to the future of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, President Barack Obama will lay out the framework and legal rationale for his administration's counterterrorism policy in a widely anticipated speech on Thursday.
Administration officials tell CNN that Obama will use the National Defense University speech to continue to call on engagement with Congress on aspects of national security, more transparency in the use of drones, and a review of threats facing the United States.
He will make the case that the al Qaeda terror network has been weakened, but that new dangers have emerged even as the U.S. winds down operations in Afghanistan after more than a decade of war triggered by the 9/11 attacks.
Threats that have emerged come from al Qaeda affiliates, localized extremist groups, and homegrown terrorists.
The address will also build on remarks Obama made in his annual State of the Union address earlier this year when he said his administration works "tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism efforts."FULL STORY
By Carol Cratty and Joe Johns
Counterterrorism drone strikes have killed four Americans overseas since 2009, the U.S. government acknowledged for the first time on Wednesday, one day before President Barack Obama delivers a major speech on related policy.
In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, Attorney General Eric Holder said the United States specifically targeted and killed one American citizen, al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, in 2011 in Yemen, alleging he was plotting attacks against the United States.
The letter provided new details about al-Awlaki's alleged involvement in bomb plots targeting U.S. aviation.
Holder also said the Obama administration was aware of three other Americans who had been killed in counterterrorism operations overseas.
Holder said Samir Kahn, Abdul Rahman Anwar al-Awlaki and Jude Kenan Mohammed were not targeted by the United States but he did not add more details about their deaths.
The letter represents the first U.S. admission that the four were killed in counterterror strikes even though their deaths had been reported in the media.
Read the full story here.
An award for drone operators that drew an angry response from lawmakers was downgraded to a lesser distinction Monday by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
The Distinguished Warfare Medal, which was approved last month by Hagel's predecessor, Leon Panetta, was to recognize "extraordinary direct impacts on combat operations." But the honor denotes that the action is not bound by a "geographic limitation," meaning operators on unmanned drones would have been eligible.
Some lawmakers expressed concern the medal would be placed above those for battlefield valor, including the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. In March, the production of the medal was halted so Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey could conduct a review.
"The Joint Chiefs of Staff, with the concurrence of the service secretaries, have recommended the creation of a new distinguishing device that can be affixed to existing medals to recognize the extraordinary actions of this small number of men and women," Hagel said Monday. "I agree with the Joint Chiefs' findings, and have directed the creation of a distinguishing device instead of a separate medal."
By Dan Merica
A group of rabbis, reverends and priests has a message for President Barack Obama: stop the drone war.
In a video produced by the Brave New Foundation, a group that uses video and social media to protest against drones, Jewish and Christian leaders describe the practice as "assassination by remote control," which violates religious principles.
“From a New Testament point of view, drones are completely appalling,” the Rev. Paul F. M. Zahl, the retired Episcopal rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase, Maryland, told CNN. “The whole idea of killing a guy without giving the guy a chance to surrender is preemptive. That for me was completely contrary to the teachings of Christ.”
The video criticizes the Obama administration, stating that the use of war does not follow Just War Theory, which has Roman and Catholic influences. The theory includes criteria that legitimize war, including ensuring that war is a last resort and that it is being carried out with the right intentions.FULL STORY
By Chris Lawrence and Barbara Starr
The Obama administration is considering shifting lethal drone operations run by the Central Intelligence Agency over to the military, U.S. officials tell CNN.
The proposal is under "serious consideration," one U.S. official said. The official said no final decision has been made, and that there is no specific time frame in place, but that the change is being considered "due to a desire for greater transparency in who is being targeted."
By law, the military is not able to act covertly the way the CIA can, and it must answer to Congress.
The Daily Beast website first reported on the potential shift.
By Bill Mears
A federal appeals court panel has ruled the CIA must acknowledge the existence of any records related to military unmanned drone strikes aimed at people such as terror suspects overseas.
It called the agency's previous denials "fiction."
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups had filed a Freedom of Information Act request, but the spy agency - citing national security - refused to confirm or deny it had any such records.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia did not buy the argument, giving the outside groups a partial legal victory Friday.
"The CIA asked the courts to stretch that doctrine too far - to give their imprimatur to a fiction of deniability that no reasonable person would regard as plausible." FULL POST
Editors Note: Jane Harman is director, president and chief executive officer of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She was a nine-term congresswoman from California, the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee from 2002 to 2006, and a principal coauthor of the Intelligence Reform Law of 2004 and the FISA Amendments of 2008.
By Jane Harman, Special to CNN
Many disagree with Sen. Rand Paul on many issues, but he is spot-on about the need for a crystal clear framework regarding the domestic and international use of drones.
Inside the United States, without exception, an American suspected of plotting a terror attack should never be targeted by an armed drone. Period.
Rand Paul was right to end the 13-hour filibuster after getting a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder that provided modest clarification about presidential authority over drone use in the United States.
"Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?" Mr. Holder wrote. "The answer to that question is no."
Still, the letter left more questions unanswered than answered. Indeed, a simple "no" is hardly reassuring when the policy it supports is not clear.
The growing strength of extremist groups across the Middle East and Africa has led the Obama Administration to begin a classified review of just who it can go after under its targeted killing program.
The current congressional authorization to use military force, allows the President to "use all necessary and appropriate force" against any persons or organizations involved in planning or carrying out the September 11th attacks–its been interpreted to include al Qaeda affiliates.
But emerging terrorist groups sympathetic to al Qaeda do not necessarily have a direct link to the core Al Qaeda network responsible for the September 11th attack, CNN's Barbara Starr reports.
By Pam Benson
The White House has agreed to turn over to the Senate Intelligence Committee additional e-mails and intelligence reports related to the lethal attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, according to a congressional source.
The source said some of the materials have already been received by the panel and others "will be provided shortly."
Republican senators have threatened to hold up the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director until they receive e-mails exchanged between the White House and the spy agency concerning public talking points about the deadly attack last September 11.
U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice relied on those talking points to explain the Obama administration's version of events several days after the armed assault. Her televised comments ignited an election-year controversy, fueled by Republicans, over whether the administration was being truthful about the nature of the attack.
By CNN's Kevin Liptak
The number of innocent victims of drone strikes remains "extremely small" and doesn't outweigh the benefits of using drones to take out al Qaeda operatives, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates argued Sunday.
But the former Pentagon chief said a better system of checks and balances could be constructive when the unmanned aerial devices are used to target Americans, aligning himself with lawmakers concerned about unfettered power in the hands of the president.
Gates served under George W. Bush during the beginnings of the drone program and later under President Barack Obama as the use of drones spiked. Recently lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, have forcefully questioned the use and oversight of the lethal devices.