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TODAY   |  May 23, 2013

Obama to deliver counterterrorism speech

President Obama will give his first major counterterrorism speech of his second term, focusing on new threats that have emerged from al Qaeda, extremist groups, and drones. NBC’s Peter Alexander reports.

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>>> national security and counterterrorism will be the focus of a major speech by president obama today. peter alexander is at the white house with details on that. peter, good morning.

>> reporter: savannah, good morning to you. this is the first counterterrorism speech of the second term. and the white house says mr. obama will make a strong case for the continued use of drone strikes. really this administration's tool of choice in the war on terror . also highlighting new efforts to bring about transparency and even new restriction in the so-called hidden war . president obama today will shine a spotlight on an issue that's been shrouded in secrecy. drones. senior administration officials tell nbc news the president's expected to outline plans to begin shifting authority over drone operations from the cia to the military.

>> the significance is the pentagon will now control the drone program, which increases transparency both for congress and the american people .

>> reporter: evidence of that renewed focus on transparency, this letter on wednesday where the obama administration for the first time formally acknowledged the u.s. targeted and killed an american citizen with a drone strike in yemen in 2011 . attorney general eric holder writing that u.s. officials determined al alawqi posed that threat. the government also acknowledged three other american citizens involved in terrorism have been killed by drones. today president obama will also renew his first term pledge to shut down the camp at guantanamo bay where a hunger strike has been ongoing for more than 100 days .

>> it's a recruitment tool for extremists, it needs to be closed.

>> reporter: and laying out his strategy in the face of an evolving threat from al qaeda .

>> the president needs to explain to congress and the american people why we need to confront this threat and what tools, tactics and strategy he will use to deal with it.

>> reporter: and while transparency is expected to be a major theme today, matt, it's unclear if the president will confront the issue cracking down on journalists who have been on the receiving end of national security