Obama administration outlines policy for use of military force.
Schiff: Should be seen as benchmark
Mindful of President-elect Donald Trump’s vow to get tougher on terrorists, the Obama administration released a rule book Monday spelling out its own policies for the use of military force.
The 61-page document from the White House sets forth the departing administration’s executive orders, legal opinions, rules for drone attacks and its policy for terrorist detention, outlining the laws supporting those policies.
In an introduction, President Obama wrote that the rules are important for reducing “the risk of an ill-considered decision.” He also advises that transparency is crucial “so that an informed public can scrutinize our actions and hold us to account.”
The publication of the report and a presidential memorandum on the subjects come a day before Mr. Obama is scheduled to speak to U.S. special forces and other troops at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida about the success of his administration’s counterterrorism strategy.
Mr. Trump has said he would be willing to reintroduce torture in the fight against terrorism, although Defense Secretary nominee Gen. James N. Mattis has advised the president-elect not to pursue that course.
The report also covers the administration’s legal justifications for trying to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba. Mr. Trump has said he would keep it open and send more terror-related detainees there.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said the policy handbook should put the new Trump administration on notice about how to conduct the war on terror.
“It may be tempting to look at this report simply as a chronicle of a soonto-be former administration; instead it should be seen as a benchmark from which to evaluate the Trump administration’s commitment to transparency and the rule of law,” Mr. Schiff said. “Given the profound uncertainty over the President-elect’s views on our foreign policy challenges and the introduction of force, and his expressed willingness to reintroduce torture, this document sets a crucial and principled example regarding the proper uses of force.”
House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said the report is important because “the people of this country deserve to know with certainty that their government is following international law and American law when it comes to decisions to use force and engage U.S. troops in combat.”
He praised Mr. Obama for writing “in one document a lasting legacy of his commitment to ensuring that those who serve us in national security faithfully adhere to the values and principles for which many of our young men and women in uniform gave their lives throughout our history.”
White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said the speech in Florida has been in the planning stages since September, long before Mr. Trump was elected. He said Mr. Obama will focus his speech on “the foundation that we want to hand off to the next administration” based on his experiences across eight years of counterterrorism efforts.
“We’ve long planned for him to give a speech to wrap up his national security record,” Mr. Rhodes said, adding that Mr. Obama will address “how he believes the nation can pursue a successful and sustainable counterterrorism policy.”
“He’ll be reiterating that our greatest strength in counterterrorism is who we are as a country,” he said. “The president believes that transparency is essential in order for there to be accountability.”
Mr. Rhodes said the release of the policy framework on counterterrorism “is another step toward normalizing policy.”
President Obama, on the eve of leaving office, released a manifesto on his military policies to claim that they have followed the law and kept America safe.