WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama reached out to an online audience Thursday, taking questions on deadly subjects like drones and gun violence, and the “chill” factor in Hawaii.
Participating in a Google Hangout chat, Obama offered assurances that drones, the unmanned aircraft used to hunt down terrorists, have never been used against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil.
“The rules outside of the United States are going to be different than the rules inside the United States, in part because our capacity, for example, to capture terrorists in the United States are very different than in the foothills or mountains of Afghanistan or Pakistan,” Obama said in some of his most expansive comments on the subject.
Obama said Congress provides oversight on counterterrorism programs but said he and Congress need to find a mechanism “to also make sure that the public understands what’s going on, what the constraints are, what the legal parameters are.”
Privacy advocates worry that a proliferation of drones will lead to a “surveillance society” in which the movements of Americans are routinely monitored, tracked, recorded and scrutinized by the authorities.
The military has come to rely heavily on drones overseas. Now there is tremendous demand to use drones in the U.S. for all kinds of tasks that are too dirty, dull or dangerous for manned aircraft. Drones also are often cheaper than manned aircraft.
Obama also defended his proposals to ban certain weapons and bullet magazines and expand background checks on gun buyers.
“We already have some restrictions.” He said. “We can’t purchase a grenade launcher from a store, although there may be some folks who want to buy those. And the reason is that we think that on balance the second amendment does not automatically assume that any weapon that’s available you can automatically purchase.”
Asked to reflect about how being raised in Hawaii influenced him, Obama said the islands are a melting pot that exposed him to different cultures and that its climate is conducive to good health.
“The weather is nice all the time,” he said. “That kind of chills you out.”