President Obama's National Security Speech: Dangerous Lies

In his latest national security speech, President Obama talked about wanting to close Guantánamo Bay, greatly reducing the drone program, and ending the 2001 Military Authorization Act, and he took credit for keeping Americans safe by supposedly defeating terrorism.  There have been arguments by some that he made his national security speech to deflect the scandals encircling his administration.  However, Americans should take his speech as a warning that this president has pivoted to enforce his ideology.  American Thinker interviewed former intelligence experts and Congressman Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) to get their impressions.

Michael Hayden, a former director of the CIA, believes that the speech was more ruminating than definitive.  "There was an awful lot of 'on the one hand, and then on the other hand,' in the speech.  We have to reduce targeted killings, yet we will continue to do [them].  This war is coming to an end, but I will continue the fight.  We have to protect secrets, but we have to protect the freedom of the press.  We will capture terrorists, but [we have] not really detained many."

With regard to the drone program, Hayden feels that this speech calls for sharp, perhaps unreasonable limitations, since there is little chance that collateral damage will be completely eliminated.  He also found it very interesting that the president said, "We act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people," narrowly defining the program's use by talking about American people instead of American interests. 

Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, agreed with the others interviewed that the president is not going to eliminate the drone program.  He sarcastically told American Thinker, "How do you know the President is lying?  His lips are moving.  The left is silent as this president has killed through drone strikes four Americans, yet in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 criticized Bush for water-boarding three terrorists and ignored the fact that it was done to save American lives.  President Obama's policies in many cases are Bush on steroids.  Also, the Bush activities had some oversight from Congress, while the Obama administration refrains from discussing it at all."

The president loves to play the blame game, and he did it in this speech: "There is no justification for Congress to prevent us from closing a facility that should never have been opened."  As to Guantánamo Bay, all the experts feel that the president's desire to once again close it is inconsistent and incoherent.  They agree with Congressman Buck McKeon (R-CA), who noted that the president's policy "maintains [that] it is more humane to kill a terrorist with a drone than detain and interrogate him at Guantánamo Bay."

Jose Rodriguez, Jr., a former CIA director of the National Clandestine Service, wonders what the president is planning on doing with the fourteen high-level terrorists who were transferred from the Black sites to Guantánamo in 2006.  He does not understand why the president wants to remove them from a state-of-the-art prison and spend a fortune refitting a prison within the U.S.

Hayden also points out the inconsistency of the president's claim that "Gitmo 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 Gitmo."  The former CIA director told American Thinker, "It is only a geography issue, since if the President had his way, he would hold them somewhere in the U.S.  Why would that make things better and any less of a recruiting poster for al-Qaeda?  The conditions will be the same.  As far as his claim about the millions spent on Guantánamo versus spending on a U.S. prison, this appears to be a rounding error in someone's budget."

President Obama once again called on Congress to lift the restrictions on detainee transfers from Gitmo and move them to a site in the U.S.  Congressman Tom Rooney was one of those who spearheaded the effort to block the funding for the transfer of the detainees to America's shores.  He told American Thinker, "The fact that there are still detainees being held in limbo at Guantánamo Bay is President Obama's fault.  The infrastructure and personnel to carry out due process are there and ready to go.  These tribunals provide sufficient due process for our troops, so why are they not adequate for trying accused terrorists?  Why we haven't tried more of the detainees is a serious question that the president needs to answer."  He also feels that Congress will continue on a bipartisan basis to deny the requested funds despite the president's tiresome attempts to recast this as a partisan issue.

Rodriguez Jr., who had a lot to do with keeping the homeland safe, is disgusted with the president's remarks.  "Just because the president is unilaterally saying this war is over does not mean it is true.  There is another side, the terrorists, who have a say, and they can choose the time and place.  I agree al-Qaeda central is seriously degraded, but it was due in part to the CIA's work over the last twelve years, of which Obama was around for only four.  The enhanced interrogation program is at the core of this.  I am disgusted at his remarks, calling this program torture.  I wrote Hard Measures to explain how it was a legal program, and helped us capture and kill many high-level al-Qaeda people between 2002 and 2005."

Rodriguez Jr. also thought the president's reference to capturing terrorists as well as detaining, interrogating, and prosecuting them was a joke.  He emphatically feels that this administration hardly captures anyone, because its people do not know what to do with them if they are captured.  "How many prisoners have we taken since Obama came into office?  I think three.  How many have been prosecuted? The bottom line is that this administration does not capture, detain, interrogate, or prosecute."

All interviewed do not agree with the president's assessment that the War on Terror is coming to an end.  They point to the thriving al-Qaeda affiliates in Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and Syria; the horrific soldier butchering by terrorists in London; and the fact that the Boston bombers might have been supported by Chechnyan jihadists who have a very close connection to al-Qaeda.  They also warn that even al-Qaeda central, given enough time, will regenerate if ignored. 

Rodriguez Jr. believes that the way to fight the terrorists is with Special Forces and the involvement of the CIA.  Yet it will be almost impossible if Obama ends the 2001 Military Authorization Act, which is his intent.  The conflict becomes not a military one, but chiefly intelligence-based.  "How is the president going to do this without the authority of this Act?  He also does not understand that by taking the Predator program away from the Agency, there will be less flexibility, agility, and no deniability.  He does not seem to understand there are consequences to what he is saying."

The president also tried to justify Attorney General Holder's actions by emphasizing national security concerns.  Not so, says Hoekstra: "President Bush always felt a responsibility to the office of the president, that the office was bigger than himself.  Obama sees himself bigger than the office and uses his administration to fulfill and promote his own political ends."  Rodriguez Jr. agrees and reminds people that this same attorney general released in 2009 the memos written to legally justify the enhanced interrogation program, and by doing so provided a blueprint to the enemy.  So where were the national security concerns then?

Michael Hayden commented during his final days at the CIA, "[i]t felt like September 12th at the CIA, but going out into the public, it felt more and more like September 10th."  After listening to President Obama's speech, it definitely sounds like he is one of those Americans who fit into the September 10th mold.  He seems to be trying to convince Americans to follow his example.

The author writes for American Thinker.  She has done book reviews and author interviews and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.