President Barack Obama defended the use of drone attacks against individual terrorists in a Thursday speech on counter-terrorism, saying his administration informs Congress about every drone strike ordered by U.S. officials.
Speaking at a military university in Washington, D.C., Obama said the use of drones, or unmanned aircraft, is effective and legal and he was adamant that drone strikes are used as a last resort to target only extremists, and not civilians.
He also said while some U.S. drone attacks have resulted in civilian deaths, he claimed failing to fight terrorism would result in greater civilian losses.
"Remember that the terrorists we are after target civilians and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes. Doing nothing is not an option," Obama said.
He said while some U.S. drone attacks have resulted in civilian deaths, he claimed failing to fight terrorism would result in greater civilian losses.
Obama's speech sought to re-frame how the country approaches security, civil liberties and conflict abroad and announced new guidelines on presidential authority during wartime.
The president also addressed the detaining of terrorism suspects, specifically at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
He said he lifted some restrictions on transferring detainees abroad and claimed he is still determined to eventually shut the prison down.
Obama tried to close Guantanamo as his first act in office but failed to do so.
"There is no justification beyond politics for Congress to prevent us from closing a facility that should have never been open," Obama said.
As the president spoke about Guantanamo, he was repeatedly heckled by an woman, identified in reports as activist Medea Benjamin, who was born on Long Island and attended graduate school at Columbia University and The New School.
Obama stopped several times, allowing the heckler to speak and saying he respected her views and understood the passion on both sides of the issue.
He finally asked her to respect his own freedom of speech, as she was being removed from the room.
The speech came one day after his administration revealed a fourth American citizen had been killed in a drone strike abroad.