On Thursday’s NOW with Alex Wagner, the panel previewed President Obama’s counterterrorism speech at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., and wondered whether it would mark a significant pivot in U.S. strategy.
The president’s speech followed Attorney General Eric Holder’s release of a letter to congressional leaders in which the U.S. government, for the first time, acknowledged that it had killed four American citizens overseas.
In his speech, President Obama argued that although drone strikes had resulted in civilian casualties, they constituted a “course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life.”
Still, The New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti told the panel that experts were divided about the efficacy of the drone program.
“There is certainly concern in the intelligence community that drone strikes are having a radicalizing effect, radicalizing people who would not otherwise have been so inclined to carry out terrorist attacks, Mazzetti said. “The question is, are the actions, the operations themselves creating possible new terrorists and possibly increasing the threat?”
Alex Wagner, who has been outspoken in her criticism of the White House’s counterterrorism policies, applauded the administration’s decision to be more forthcoming about its targeted killing program, calling it a “big step.” Not everyone on the panel agreed.
“I think you’re being generous in saying the president acknowledging what we all already know to be true is a big step,” said msnbc.com Executive Editor Richard Wolffe. “I think the president is trying to make himself look great by imposing what are, in fact, minimal controls and transparency on this program.”