In a rare admission, Robert Gibbs, the former White House Press Secretary under Obama, told reporters Sunday that he was ordered to act as if there was no such thing as an active US drone program.
“When I went through the process of becoming press secretary, one of the first things they told me was, you’re not even to acknowledge the drone program,” Gibbs said on MSNBC’s “Up With Chris Hayes” this past weekend.
Gibbs said that he was told “You’re not even to discuss that it exists.”
Noting that the notion was “inherently crazy”, Gibbs said “You’re being asked a question based on reporting of a program that exists.”
“So you’re the official government spokesperson acting as if the entire program—pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” Gibbs, who was Press Secretary between 2009 and 2011, said.
As we have tirelessly noted, the Obama administration has been heavily criticized for blocking the release of information relating to its overseas drone assassination programme, and will not even officially acknowledge that it exists, despite countless public references to the programme and the proven existence of an official “kill list”.
Gibbs stated that he expects the drone program to remain secret for the most part, despite moves in Congress to force more transparency.
“I have not talked to him about this, so I want to be careful,” Gibbs said, “but I think what the president has seen is, our denial of the existence of the program when it’s obviously happening undermines people’s confidence overall in the decisions that their government makes.”
While the program itself remains classified, it is no secret that Obama has vastly expanded the US drone war since entering office in 2009. Daily drone strikes are raining down on Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as Somalia.
A recent report released by Washington based think tank, The New America Foundation revealed that the number of secret US drone strikes in Yemen almost tripled in 2012, compared to 2011.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, has found that at least 171 civilians, including 35 children, have been slaughtered in Yemen by secret US drone strikes over the past ten years.
Communications released by WikiLeaks in 2010 revealed that the US and Yemen have repeatedly attempted to cover up the use of US warplanes to bombard Yemen.
Last week it was announced that despite the fact that drone strikes have killed thousands of innocent civilians in Yemen and Pakistan, the Pentagon is to reward drone operators with medals.
The DoD is creating a new ribbon, called the Distinguished Warfare Medal that will be awarded for “extra achievement” related to a military operation. This will encompass sitting at a computer console and pressing a button to release Hellfire missiles from Predator drones hundreds and thousands of miles away.
The medal will become the fourth-highest ranking combat decoration, placing above the Bronze Star.
Despite the official secrecy, the president has referred to the drone program several times in public, as have officials such as counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan.
Last year, the New York Times ran a major piece on the program revealing that the White House has asserted the right to carry out state-sponsored assassination anywhere in the world without having to provide any evidence or go through any legal process.