The United States government has given its most open justification of its controversial and secret drone strikes on al Qaeda suspects, describing the program as ethical, legal and necessary.
A US counterterrorism advisor to President Barack Obama has firmly defended the country's drone program as legal and ethical, marking the administration's most open description of the program yet.
"The debate over strikes targeted at individual members of al Qaeda has centered on their legality, their ethics, the wisdom of using them, and the standards by which they are approved," Obama aid John Brennan said in Washington on Monday. "I'm here today because President Obama has instructed us to be more open with the American people about these efforts."
The drone program, under which the US government has been killing scores of what it says are al Qaeda suspects in parts of Pakistan and some other countries, has been widely known about for years. However Washington has been largely unwilling to discuss the program in public.
'Ethical and legal'
Brennan said the controversial strikes by "remotely piloted aircraft" are ethically justifiable because "only military objectives may be intentionally targeted and ... civilians are protected from being intentionally targeted." He compared the strikes to targeting Japanese or German military commanders during World War II.
US Attorney General Eric Holder and other top officials have certified the drone strikes as legal, Brennan said, adding that the US Constitution and laws passed by Congress after the September 11 attacks authorize the president to "protect the nation from any imminent threat of attack."
Drone strikes have been a particular point of contention with Pakistan, where lawmakers two weeks ago demanded Washington end the practice. Some drone attacks have killed Pakistani civilians, something Brennan said the US goes to great lengths to avoid.
"There is absolutely nothing casual about the extraordinary care we take in making the decision to pursue an al Qaeda terrorist, and the lengths to which we go to ensure precision and avoid the loss of innocent life," Brennan said.
acb/ccp (AFP, AP)