President Obama had some competition Thursday when he addressed an audience at the National Defense University in Washington on the administration's approach to fighting terrorism. He was interrupted a number of times by a heckler in the back of the room, and he paused at various points in his speech to respond to her.
As Obama spoke about the detention center for captured terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the woman shouted a comment about prisoners on a hunger strike over years of imprisonment without trial at the U.S. Naval base and demanded to know what the president is going to do about it.
"Excuse me, President Obama, you are the commander in chief," she yelled.
"Why don't you sit down, and I'll tell you exactly what I'm going to do," Obama said.
The heckler sounded even more determined to get answers when Obama was discussing administration policy regarding drone strikes that have sparked protests here and in Pakistan and other Middle East countries, where the targeting of suspected terrorists has resulted in the killing of innocent non-combatants. At one point, the president said an attack by one of the unmanned bombers is authorized only when there is "near certainty" that no civilians would be killed or injured.
That appears to contradict the admission in a letter to congressional leaders from Attorney General Eric Holder Wednesday that four U.S. citizens have been killed in drone attacks, only one of whom was a target. The targeted citizen was militant Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who Holder said had been actively involved in plotting terrorist attacks against the United States. Awlaki was killed by a drone strike in Yemen on September 30, 2011. The three other American citizens killed, including Awlaki's son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, were not targets, Holder said. The younger Awlaki, age 16, was killed in a drone strike, also in Yemen, two weeks after his father's death.
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Photo of Medea Benjamin being removed from auditorium: AP Images