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unmanned drones

Movie star Matt Damon says he no longer has a crush on President Barack Obama.

“He broke up with me,” Matt Damon said in an interview published online Thursday.

Matt Damon told BET that he and the president “no longer see eye-to-eye”.

“There are a lot of things that I really question, specifically about the Obama administration’s national security posture.”

“The legality of the drone strikes,” Matt Damon said, “and these NSA revelations are like, you know Jimmy Carter came out and said we don’t live in a democracy. That’s a little intense when an ex-president says that. So you know, he’s got some explaining to do, particularly for a constitutional law professor.”

Barack Obama has come under fire for presiding over an NSA with a mandate for domestic spying. The agency’s biggest secrets are now exposed publicly since contractor Edward Snowden leaked them to the press and fled to Russia.

And the president has faced growing outrage from Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and other libertarian-minded Republicans, following his Department of Justice’s longtime refusal to guarantee that it won’t use drones to surveil Americans – an assurance it gave only in the face of an embarrassing Senate filibuster.

Matt Damon no longer has a crush on President Barack Obama

Matt Damon no longer has a crush on President Barack Obama

The White House continues to use unmanned drones as first-strike weapons against terrorism targets overseas.

Matt Damon campaigned aggressively for then-Senator Obama during the 2008 election season. Nine days before the 2008 election, Matt Damon told a room full of volunteers in Florida that they should work hard to “make sure Barack wins”.

But in the president’s second term, the bloom is clearly off the rose.

Matt Damon told reporters in August 2011 that he was “really dissatisfied” with Barack Obama “doubling down” on George W. Bush’s “bad ideas” for education.

Three months later in an interview with Elle magazine Matt Damon said: “I’ve talked to a lot of people who worked for Obama at the grassroots level. One of them said to me, <<Never again. I will never be fooled again by a politician>>.”

“You know, a one-term president with some balls who actually got stuff done would have been, in the long run of the country, much better.”

Matt Damon’s criticism of Barack Obama began in late 2010, and by April 2011 the president was ready to fire back, albeit in good fun.

“It’s fair to say that when it comes to my presidency, the honeymoon is over,” Barack Obama said at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

“Matt Damon said he was disappointed in my performance. Well Matt, I just saw The Adjustment Bureau so right back atcha buddy.”

Matt Damon has come under fire this week following revelations that despite his long-term advocacy for improving public education, he sends his own children to a private school.

“I pay for a private education and I’m trying to get the one that most matches the public education that I had,” he told The Guardian, “but that kind of progressive education no longer exists in the public system. It’s unfair.”

During a 2011 rally in Washington D.C., Matt Damon told a crowd of teachers that he would not trade his own public school education “for anything”.

Matt Damon’s upcoming film Elysium, which opens Friday, has been panned by conservatives for arguing for a socialist utopia as an alternative to a future world of haves and have-nots.

The Occupy Wall Street-inspired plot line involves a wealthy elite class that has abandoned an overcrowded Earth for a luxury space station, leaving the rest of humanity in crime-ridden and poverty-stricken squalor.

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US President Barack Obama has defended the use of drones in a “just war” of self-defense against deadly militants and a campaign that had made America safer.

In a wide-ranging speech on a programme shrouded in secrecy, Barack Obama said there must be “near certainty” that no civilians would die in such strikes.

In a renewed push to shut Guantanamo Bay, the president said he had lifted a moratorium on prisoner transfers to Yemen.

Barack Obama also defended the use of drones to kill four US citizens.

“We are at war with an organization that right now would kill as many Americans as they could if we did not stop them first,” he said in Thursday’s address at the National Defense University in Washington DC.

“So this is a just war – a war waged proportionally, in last resort, and in self-defense.”

He added: “And yet as our fight enters a new phase, America’s legitimate claim of self-defense cannot be the end of the discussion. To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective, is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance.”

Declaring America at a “crossroads” in its efforts to combat militancy, Barack Obama also said his administration would be willing to accept increased oversight of drone strikes outside war zones like Afghanistan.

Human rights groups have long condemned the use of unmanned drones to carry out killings.

Barack Obama warned that a “perpetual” US war on terror, whether through drone strikes, special forces operations or troop deployments, would be “self-defeating”.

In a Republican rebuttal later, Senator John McCain argued the US remained at war with al-Qaeda.

“Al-Qaeda will be with us for a long time,” John McCain said.

Barack Obama has defended the use of drones in a "just war" of self-defense against deadly militants and a campaign that had made America safer

Barack Obama has defended the use of drones in a “just war” of self-defense against deadly militants and a campaign that had made America safer

As the president addressed efforts to close the detention centre at the US base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, he was interrupted by a protester shouting about the current hunger strike at the prison.

“I’m willing to cut the young lady who interrupted me some slack because it’s worth being passionate about,” he said.

Barack Obama told his audience: “Guantanamo has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law.”

The Democratic president made shutting the prison a top priority at the beginning of his first term, but his effort foundered amid strong bipartisan opposition in Congress.

Calling on Congress not to block his efforts to transfer the facility’s inmates to American high-security jails, he added: “No person has ever escaped from one of our super-max or military prisons in the United States.”

Barack Obama said he was appointing envoys from the defense and state departments to negotiate transfers of detainees to other countries, and said he would lift a moratorium on transfers to Yemen.

After the speech, Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss told reporters Barack Obama was wrong to lift the Yemen moratorium because Yemeni authorities could not be trusted to “handle them”.

“We’ve got 166 of the meanest nastiest killers in the world located at Guantanamo Bay today,” he said.

“If we were to transfer them to Yemen, it would be just like turning them loose. We should try those individuals at Guantanamo in the courtrooms and then make a decision about what to do with them.”

Meanwhile, Yemen welcomed the move, a spokesman at the country’s Washington embassy said.

Barack Obama’s speech coincides with the signing of new “presidential policy guidance” on when drone strikes can be used, the White House said.

The policy document curtails the circumstances in which drones can be used in places that are not overt war zones, such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

In an outline of the new policy released to the news media, the administration said it preferred to capture terrorist suspects, with drone strikes used only amid a “continuing, imminent threat” to the US.

Beyond that, the administration listed criteria for the approval of a drone strike:

  • “Near certainty” the target was present and that civilians would not be injured or killed
  • Capture would not be feasible
  • Authorities of the country in question could not or would not address the threat
  • No other reasonable alternatives were available

On Wednesday, the US disclosed that four Americans had been killed in drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan since 2011, marking the first formal public acknowledgement of the US citizen deaths in drone strikes.

In a letter to the Senate judiciary committee, US Attorney General Eric Holder defended the targeted killing in 2011 of Anwar al-Awlaki, whom he described as a “senior operational leader” of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Anwar al-Awlaki, who was born in the US state of New Mexico, was killed in a missile strike from an unmanned plane in Yemen in September 2011 along with Samir Khan, a naturalized US citizen who produced an online al-Qaeda magazine.

Anwar al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son Abdulrahman, born in Colorado, was killed in Yemen a month later.

Eric Holder also confirmed Jude Kenan Mohammad, a North Carolina resident, had been killed in a drone strike. He is thought to have died in a strike in November 2011 in Pakistan’s South Waziristan region.

Eric Holder said only Awlaki had been “specifically targeted and killed”, and that the other men “were not specifically targeted by the United States”.

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