MSNBC host Rachel Maddow pressed former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on Monday regarding President Barack Obama’s administration’s use of unmanned drones to kill terrorism suspects, which Gibbs said would become more transparent in the wake of the nomination of John Brennan to lead the Central Investigation Agency.
“The operations can be classified. How can the law be classified?” she asked Gibbs, who recently joined the network as a paid contributor.
“I think you will see the beginnings of understanding and walking people through the legal justifications of a whole host of these operations,” Gibbs answered. “I think that’s what the president believes, and John believes, are so important to make more public, and to have people understand.”
Maddow also played Gibbs’ interview on Sunday with their colleague Chris Hayes, in which he admitted that, “One of the first things they told me was, ‘You’re not even to acknowledge the drone program. You’re not even to discuss that it exists.’”
“Why were you told that you can’t talk about it?” Maddow said to begin her interview. “Why were you told you can’t acknowledge the existence of the program?”
Gibbs replied that the process of “lifting the veil” from the drone program started with a speech by Brennan in April 2012 in which he defended it as legal and adhering “to the principle of proportionality.”
“It’s an extraordinary speech,” Gibbs said, arguing that Brennan understood that forcing a press secretary to remain mum about a program already being reported on was not viable. “It took a long time to get that speech through the bureaucracy and through the government so that somebody could finally, on camera, begin to speak about what this program entailed.”
Following Brennan’s speech, the Obama administration began seeking what it called “a legal architecture” for the practice, even though it refused to release legal memos justifying it.
But in his State of the Union address on Feb. 12, Obama vowed to “engage with Congress” to ensure greater transparency.
“That, to me, strikes of secret law,” Maddow said. “Which doesn’t seem in line with the president’s assertion in the State of the Union.”
Watch Maddow’s interview with Gibbs, aired Monday on MSNBC, below.