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9 revealing statements Obama has made about transparency and drone strikes

President Obama waves as he walks on the South Lawn of the White House during his departure for Canada, in Washington, U.S. June 29, 2016. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

President Obama waves as he walks on the South Lawn of the White House during his departure for Canada, June 29, 2016. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

The White House has released figures for militants and civilians killed since 2009 in U.S. counterterrorism strikes in countries where the United States is not at war, part of President Obama’s push for more transparency and new guidelines on the use of drones in terrorism operations.

Throughout the years, Obama has made statements discussing such strikes and the government’s policy on drones. Here’s a quick collection:

In April 2016: “Civilians were killed that should not have been.”

“There has been, in the past, legitimate criticism that the legal architecture around the use of drone strikes or other kinetic strength was not as precise as it should have been, and there is no doubt that civilians were killed that should not have been.” — in a news conference after the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington 

April 8, 2016: “An institutionalized process”

In speeches in 2013 and 2016, President Obama stressed that the U.S. tries to avoid civilian deaths as a result of drone strikes, but doesn't always succeed. (Video: The Washington Post)

“My hope is, is that by the time I leave office there is not only an internal structure in place that governs these standards that we’ve set, but there is also an institutionalized process whereby the actions that the U.S. government takes through drone technology are consistently reported on, on an annualized basis so that people can look.” — during a question-and-answer session at the University of Chicago Law School

April 23, 2015: “Mistakes, sometimes deadly mistakes, can occur”

“As president and as commander in chief, I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism operations, including the one that inadvertently took the lives of Warren and Giovanni. I profoundly regret what happened. On behalf of the United States government, I offer our deepest apologies to the families.

“It is a cruel and bitter truth that in the fog of war generally and our fight against terrorists specifically, mistakes, sometimes deadly mistakes, can occur. But one of the things that sets America apart from many other nations, one of the things that makes us exceptional, is our willingness to confront squarely our imperfections and to learn from our mistakes.” — in a news conference after a U.S. airstrike killed two hostages: American contractor Warren Weinstein and Italian citizen Giovanni Lo Porto

Jan. 20, 2015: “Our intelligence agencies have worked hard … to increase transparency” 

Here are the highlights from President Obama's 2015 State of the Union speech, including zingers on climate change and calls for tax reform. (Video: Nicki DeMarco/The Washington Post)

“As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I have prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained.…

“Our intelligence agencies have worked hard, with the recommendations of privacy advocates, to increase transparency and build more safeguards against potential abuse.” — during Obama’s State of the Union speech

Sept. 23, 2014: “We will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists”

Before getting on a flight Tuesday to New York City, where he was expected to speak about climate change, President Obama addressed the airstrikes that the U.S. launched Monday night against the Islamic State in Syria. (Video: AP)

“Last night, we also took strikes to disrupt plotting against the United States and our allies by seasoned al-Qaeda operatives in Syria who are known as the Khorasan Group. And once again, it must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and try to do Americans harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people.” — when Obama announced airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria

Sept. 10, 2014: “This strategy … is one we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia”

“I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil…. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.” — during a news conference when Obama announced his plans to go after the Islamic State

May 23, 2013: “Before any strike … there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured” 

President Obama outlined a four-step plan on combating the threat of the Islamic State. Here are the highlights from his speech. (Video: Nicki DeMarco and Ashleigh Joplin/The Washington Post)

“America does not take strikes to pWhy CIA drone strikes have plummetedunish individuals; we act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people, and when there are no other governments capable of effectively addressing the threat. And before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured — the highest standard we can set.”

“As our fight enters a new phase, America’s legitimate claim of self-defense cannot be the end of the discussion. To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective, is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance.” —  in a telling speech about his drone policy at the National Defense University

Jan. 30, 2012: “Drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties” 

“I want to make sure that people understand: actually, drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties. For the most part, they have been very precise precision strikes against al-Qaeda and their affiliates.” He called the strikes “a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists.” — in a forum on YouTube

May 29, 2009: “I have never argued … our most sensitive national security matters should simply be an open book.”

“I ran for President promising transparency, and I meant what I said. And that’s why, whenever possible, my administration will make all information available to the American people so that they can make informed judgments and hold us accountable. But I have never argued — and I never will — that our most sensitive national security matters should simply be an open book.” — in remarks on national security at the National Archives 

Read more:

The foggy numbers of Obama’s wars and non-wars

Why CIA drone strikes have plummeted

Obama: U.S. at ‘crossroads’ in fight against terrorism