Networks Tout Obama's 'Renewed Focus on Transparency' in War on Terror; No Mention of Benghazi
While the three network morning shows on Thursday all promoted President Obama's "renewed focus on transparency" in an upcoming national security speech, none of the broadcasts made any mention of the administration's deception in the ongoing scandal surrounding the terrorist attack in Benghazi.
On NBC's Today, White House correspondent Peter Alexander declared that Obama would be "highlighting new efforts to bring about transparency and even new restriction in the so-called hidden war" while citing "evidence of that renewed focus on transparency" in the form a Justice Department letter to Congress officially acknowledging the already widely-reported fact that drones were used to kill American citizen and terrorist cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki.
On ABC's Good Morning America, White House correspondent Jonathan Karl reported: "As part of this effort to be open he acknowledged yesterday the administration, they have killed four Americans tied to al Qaeda with drone strikes over the past couple years."
On CBS This Morning, White House correspondent Major Garrett similarly noted: "Today's speech might not silence critics either, though it is meant to fulfill Mr. Obama's promise – made at the State of the Union address and in this Google town hall – to be more transparent about drone killings."
Garrett began his report by alluding to administration scandals: "With his domestic agenda hamstrung by scandal, President Obama today will unveil his second term counter-terrorism strategy." However, he failed to specifically mention any of them, including Benghazi.
The only reference to scandal in the Today report was Alexander briefly adding at the very end: "And while transparency is expected to be a major theme today, Matt, it's unclear if the President's going to confront the issue of his administration's cracking down on journalists who have been on the receiving end of national security leaks."
Here is a full transcript of Alexander's May 23 Today report:
7:00AM ET TEASE:
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Out of the shadows. President Obama set to deliver a major speech today on one of the most controversial and secretive parts of the U.S. war on terror, drones, and whether they should be used to target and kill American terror suspects.
7:04AM ET SEGMENT:
GUTHRIE: National security and counterterrorism will be the focus of a major speech by President Obama today. NBC's Peter Alexander is at the White House with details on that. Peter, good morning.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Obama Takes On Drones, Gitmo; President to Make Major Address Today]
PETER ALEXANDER: Savannah, good morning to you. This is the first major counterterrorism speech of the President's second term. And the White House officials say Mr. Obama will make a strong case for the continued use of drone strikes, really this administration's tool of choice in the war on terror. While also highlighting new efforts to bring about transparency and even new restriction in the so-called hidden war.
President Obama today will shine a spotlight on an issue that's largely been shrouded in secrecy, drones. Senior administration officials tell NBC News the President's expected to outline plans to begin shifting authority over drone operations from the CIA to the military.
ROGER CRESSY [NBC NEWS TERRORISM ANALYST]: The significance is the pentagon will now control the drone program, which increases transparency, both for Congress and the American people.
ALEXANDER: Evidence of that renewed focus on transparency, this letter to congressional leaders Wednesday, where the Obama administration for the first time formally acknowledged that the U.S. targeted and killed an American citizen, Anwar Al-Awlaki, with a drone strike in Yemen in 2011. Attorney General Eric Holder writing that U.S. officials determined Al-Awlaki posed an "imminent threat" to the U.S. and that it was "not feasible to capture" him. The government also acknowledged three other American citizens involved in terrorism have been killed by drones.
Today President Obama will also renew his first-term pledge to shut down the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, where a hunger strike has been ongoing for more than 100 days.
BARACK OBAMA: It is a recruitment tool for extremists, it needs to be closed.
ALEXANDER: And the President will lay out his broader counterterrorism strategy in the face of an evolving threat from Al Qaeda.
CRESSY: The President needs to explain to Congress and the American people why we need to confront this threat and what tools, tactics, and strategy he will use to deal with it.
ALEXANDER: And while transparency is expected to be a major theme today, Matt, it's unclear if the President's going to confront the issue of his administration's cracking down on journalists who have been on the receiving end of national security leaks.
That speech is scheduled for today at two o'clock.
LAUER: Alright, Peter Alexander at the White House. Peter, thank you.