By Suzanne Kelly
The Obama administration publicly justified its use of unmanned drones to target suspected terrorists overseas for the first time Monday, with a top official saying the strikes are conducted "in full accordance with the law."
John Brennan, President Barack Obama's top counter-terrorism adviser said strikes are used when the option of capture is not feasible. Brennan discussed the strikes during a Monday address at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington think-tank.
"President Obama said here five years ago, if another nation cannot or will not take action, we will," Brennan said. "And it is an unfortunate fact that to save many innocent lives we are sometimes obliged to take lives - the lives of terrorists who seek to murder our fellow citizens."
The program utilizes unmanned aerial vehicles, often equipped with Hellfire missiles, to target al Qaeda operatives in remote locations overseas - often on the territory of U.S. allies such as Pakistan and Yemen. Brennan said the United States "respects national sovereignty and international law" and is guided by the laws of war in ordering those attacks.
But the attacks have drawn repeated condemnations from Pakistan, which says the strikes have killed numerous civilians. A drone strike hit a high school in the country's northwestern tribal region where intelligence officials said Islamic militants were hiding Sunday, bringing a fresh denunciation from Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
And domestic critics insist that the program isn't legal, and they remain concerned about the targeted killing of Americans like accused al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki, who died in a drone strike in Yemen in September.
"Mr. Brennan supplies legal conclusions, not legal analysis," said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "We continue to believe that the administration should release the Justice Department memos underlying the program - particularly the memo that authorizes the extrajudicial killing of American terrorism suspects. And the administration should release the evidence it relied on to conclude that an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, could be killed without charge, trial, or judicial process of any kind."
And a woman stood up in the middle of Brennan's speech to protest the use of the drone strikes. She was carried out by security.
Brennan's remarks are the Obama administration's most candid and open confirmation of the program to date. Attorney General Eric Holder defended the killing of al-Awlaki in March, saying the United States had the right to use "technologically advanced weapons" against terrorists, and Brennan said the top lawyers for the Pentagon, State Department and CIA have laid out the legal basis for the attacks.
"When considering lethal force, we are of course mindful that there are important checks on our ability to act unilaterally in foreign territories," he said. "We do not use force whenever we want, wherever we want. International legal principles, including respect for a state's sovereignty and the laws of war, impose constraints. The United States of America respects national sovereignty and international law."
Brennan said people are targeted if they are believed to pose a significant threat to the United States or its overseas interests. The targets are usually people holding high-ranking positions within al Qaeda, or who possess critical skills that help enable the terrorist organization to carry out attacks, and there is no feasible chance to capture them.
Arguments in favor of the method include the fact that no U.S. troops are put at risk, and that the precision targeting capabilities enable for the careful avoidance of civilian deaths. Brennan acknowledged that innocent civilians are killed sometimes, and the administration conducts a full review of the operation when that happens.
But he did not address the issue of backlash from al Qaeda or other organizations. In 2009, a CIA base in Afghanistan was targeted by a suicide bomber who posed as a double agent and killed seven CIA Officers along with a Jordanian intelligence official. A Taliban commander claimed that the attack was in retaliation for a drone strike.
And he said the program is now spreading beyond the United States, saying that other countries have the technology - casting light for the first time on the administration's concerns about the possibility that other countries using this technology against the United States.
"President Obama and those of us on his national security team are very mindful that as our nation uses this technology, we are establishing precedents that other nations may follow," he said. "And not all of them will be nations that share our interests or the premium we put on protecting human life, including innocent civilians."
Brennan also revealed that there are disagreements over use of the program within the administration - but he added that the nation is at war.
"If anyone in government who works in this area tells you they haven't struggled with this, then they haven't spent much time thinking about it. I know I have, and I will continue to struggle with it as long as I remain involved in counterterrorism."
An intriguing discussion is definitely worth comment. I believe that you ought to publish more about this subject, it might not be a taboo subject but generally folks don't speak about such subjects. To the next! Cheers!!
Hi there! This article couldn’t be written much better! Looking at this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He continually kept preaching about this. I most certainly will forward this information to him. Fairly certain he will have a very good read. Thank you for sharing!
An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a coworker who had been doing a little research on this. And he in fact bought me lunch simply because I discovered it for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending some time to discuss this matter here on your internet site.
Spot on with this write-up, I truly think this amazing site needs a lot more attention. I’ll probably be returning to read through more, thanks for the info!
Everything is very open with a clear explanation of the issues. It was definitely informative. Your site is useful. Many thanks for sharing!
Pretty! This was an incredibly wonderful article. Thank you for providing these details.
Excellent article! We will be linking to this great article on our site. Keep up the great writing.
I absolutely love your website.. Very nice colors & theme. Did you create this website yourself? Please reply back as I’m trying to create my own website and would like to know where you got this from or what the theme is called. Many thanks!
Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you penning this post and the rest of the site is extremely good.
It’s difficult to find well-informed people about this topic, but you seem like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks
You should be a part of a contest for one of the finest websites online. I am going to highly recommend this website!
You have made some really good points there. I checked on the web for additional information about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this site.
Next time I read a blog, Hopefully it doesn't disappoint me just as much as this particular one. I mean, Yes, it was my choice to read through, however I genuinely believed you would probably have something helpful to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of crying about something you could possibly fix if you weren't too busy searching for attention.
That is a really good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere. Short but very precise info… Many thanks for sharing this one. A must read article!
You will soon get a concept of who the great ones are actually.
If you want cash to come your way, you better work harder and produce more content pieces.
A composed first paragraph is essential.
Greetings! Very useful advice within this post!
It is the little changes that produce the largest changes.
Thanks for sharing!
That is a great tip especially to those new to the blogosphere. Short but very accurate information… Many thanks for sharing this one. A must read post!
bookmarked!!, I like your site!
Right here is the perfect blog for anybody who hopes to find out about this topic. You realize a whole lot its almost tough to argue with you (not that I actually would want to…HaHa). You certainly put a new spin on a topic that's been discussed for decades. Great stuff, just excellent!
This is the right site for anyone who hopes to understand this topic. You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I really would want to…HaHa). You certainly put a brand new spin on a topic which has been written about for many years. Wonderful stuff, just wonderful!
Great blog you have got here.. It’s difficult to find good quality writing like yours these days. I truly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!
Great blog you've got here.. It’s hard to find good quality writing like yours nowadays. I seriously appreciate people like you! Take care!!
Great information. Lucky me I ran across your site by accident (stumbleupon). I've bookmarked it for later!
I’m amazed, I have to admit. Seldom do I come across a blog that’s both educative and amusing, and without a doubt, you've hit the nail on the head. The problem is an issue that too few people are speaking intelligently about. I'm very happy that I stumbled across this during my hunt for something concerning this.
I seriously love your blog.. Pleasant colors & theme. Did you build this amazing site yourself? Please reply back as I’m hoping to create my own blog and want to know where you got this from or exactly what the theme is called. Thank you!
May I just say what a relief to find a person that really understands what they're discussing over the internet. You certainly know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. A lot more people really need to read this and understand this side of the story. I was surprised you are not more popular given that you certainly possess the gift.
This site was... how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something which helped me. Thanks a lot!
I'm extremely pleased to find this site. I want to to thank you for your time for this fantastic read!! I definitely loved every bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new things in your blog.
Hello there! I could have sworn I’ve visited your blog before but after looking at a few of the articles I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m certainly delighted I came across it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back often!
I really like it when folks get together and share views. Great blog, stick with it!
This is the perfect site for anybody who wants to find out about this topic. You realize a whole lot its almost tough to argue with you (not that I personally would want to…HaHa). You definitely put a fresh spin on a topic that's been discussed for many years. Excellent stuff, just wonderful!
Hey there! I simply want to offer you a huge thumbs up for your excellent information you have got here on this post. I'll be coming back to your site for more soon.
Hello, I believe your site could possibly be having web browser compatibility problems. When I look at your website in Safari, it looks fine however, if opening in I.E., it's got some overlapping issues. I simply wanted to give you a quick heads up! Aside from that, excellent site!
An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a co-worker who was conducting a little research on this. And he actually ordered me dinner because I found it for him... lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending the time to talk about this issue here on your web page.
I needed to thank you for this great read!! I absolutely loved every bit of it. I have you saved as a favorite to check out new stuff you post…
Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you penning this post and the rest of the website is really good.
Great information. Lucky me I ran across your website by accident (stumbleupon). I have book-marked it for later!
There's definately a great deal to find out about this subject. I really like all of the points you have made.
Hello there! I could have sworn I’ve visited this blog before but after looking at many of the articles I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely delighted I discovered it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back often!
Saved as a favorite, I love your website!
I blog quite often and I seriously appreciate your information. This great article has truly peaked my interest. I am going to book mark your site and keep checking for new information about once a week. I opted in for your Feed too.
I'm extremely impressed together wifh your writing talents
as well as with the format in your blog. Is that this
a paid topic or did you customize it youur self? Anyway stay up thhe excellent
quality writing, it is rare to look a nice blog like this one nowadays..
Review my blog post – New Product
I seriously love your website.. Excellent colors & theme. Did you build this website yourself? Please reply back as I’m wanting to create my own personal site and want to find out where you got this from or what the theme is named. Appreciate it!
Having read this I thought it was very informative. I appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this article together.
I once again find myself personally spending way too much time both reading
and posting comments. But so what, it was still worth it!
This website was... how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I've found something that helped me. Cheers!
I must thank you for the efforts you have put in penning this blog. I really hope to view the same high-grade content by you later on as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my very own blog now 😉
This website was... how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something that helped me. Appreciate it!
An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who has been conducting a little research on this. And he actually bought me breakfast because I stumbled upon it for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending some time to talk about this issue here on your blog.
I like it when individuals come together and share views. Great blog, keep it up!
This website was... how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I've found something which helped me. Kudos!
Widely recognized your good friends will provide a hard time if they find out you made
it happen. As it is portable instrument it's carried in pockets by both adults and
That is a good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere. Brief but very precise info… Thanks for sharing this one. A must read article!
Helpful information. Fortunate me I discovered your site by chance, and I'm stunned why this coincidence didn't took place
earlier! I bookmarked it.
Thanks for every other magnificent post. The place else could
anybody get that type of info in such an ideal approach of
writing? I have a presentation next week,
and I am at the look for such info.
Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Many thanks, However I am encountering difficulties with your RSS. I don’t understand why I can't subscribe to it. Is there anyone else getting identical RSS issues? Anyone that knows the answer can you kindly respond? Thanks!!
You ought to be a part of a contest for one of the greatest blogs on the web. I will recommend this site!