Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, discussing the Obama administration's transparency regarding the, said on MSNBC on Sunday that he was effectively under a gag order on the program while working for the Obama administration. Gibbs said his bosses barred him from acknowledging its existence or discussing it in any way while he was press secretary.
"When I went through the process of the press secretary, one of the first things they told me was: 'You are not even to acknowledge the drone program. you are not even to discuss that it exists,'" Gibbs said, explaining why he could not be more candid with reporters on the issue.
He added that he did not think the administration did itself any favors by stonewalling reporters on the issue.
"Our denial of the existence of a program when it's obviously happening undermines peoples' confidence overall in the decisions that their government makes," Gibbs said.
Gibbs likened the official line from the administration on the program to the "Wizard of Oz" idea of "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."
"Here's what's inherently crazy about that proposition: You're being asked a question based on reporting of a program that exists," Gibbs said.
Critics of the drone program have raised concerns both about the lack of transparency in the execution of the program and the legal and moral issues raised by the decision to terminate individuals, including American citizens, without a trial or any semblance of due process.
Supporters contend that the unmanned drone program has greatly enhanced the efficacy of counterterrorism efforts, arguing that anyone targeted by a drone has forfeited their right to due process by identifying as an enemy combatant.