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President Obama responded to the news that four Americans have been killed in drone strikes since 2009. In a speech Thursday (May 24), the commander in chief defended the counterterrorism efforts but called for better tactics limiting civilian casualties.

 Attorney General Eric Holder presented the list  of deaths in a letter to Congress this week.

In the defense, Obama explained that the report has unearthed a deficiency in the system. “America is at a crossroad,” he said. “We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us, mindful of James Madison’s warning that ‘No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

The deceased came from different backgrounds, including one person born in Saudi Arabia, but a citizen of the U.S. ABC News reports:

 The names of the Americans killed by drones had previously been classified information.

Samir Kahn was the publisher of Inspire magazine, which Anwar al-Awlaki edited. Abdul Rahman al Awlaki was Awlaki’s son.

Jude Kenan Mohammed was on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List and was believed to be plotting a car bombing on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. On July 22, 2009, he was indicted in North Carolina for conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to murder, kidnap, maim and injure persons in foreign country.

The decision to target Anwar al-Awlaki was “subjected to an exceptionally rigorous interagency review” and approved by Holder and other Justice Department lawyers, Holder wrote.

Holder’s letter, released before a speech by President Obama, represents the administration’s most specific statement of policy on drone strikes against Americans.

 Stating, “We must define our efforts not as a boundless ‘global war on terror’ — but rather as a series of president, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists the threaten America.” 

Hoping to “facilitate transparency and debate on this issue, and to dismiss some of the more outlandish claims,” the POTUS  believes the reveal will better protect innocent victims, but his attempted optimism wasn’t so well received.

From Yahoo News:

Obama was heckled at length by Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the anti-war group Code Pink and a leading (and highly recognizable) critic of the so-called war on terrorism.

“Can you tell the Muslim people their lives are as precious as our lives?” she shouted as she was finally ushered from the hall. “Will you apologize to the thousands of Muslims that you have killed? Will you compensate the innocent family victims? That will make us safer!”

After trying and failing several times to get her to sit quietly, Obama went off script and enlisted her protest to reinforce his message about the need to close the Guantanamo facility.

“The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to,” the president said, to applause. “Obviously, I do not agree with much of what she said. And obviously she wasn’t listening to me and much of what I said. But these are tough issues. And the suggestion that we can gloss over them is wrong.”

Drone strikes have of course not only cost the lives of U.S. Citizens, but countless children and other innocent victims in the Middle East.

Last year Lupe Fiasco criticized the president for ordering the attacks.

Photo: Larry Downing/Reuters