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Top US Official: Drone Strikes 'Legal, Ethical and Wise' in Terror Fight

John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, speaks about the killing of Osama bin Laden from the Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. (File Photo -May 2, 2011)
John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, speaks about the killing of Osama bin Laden from the Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. (File Photo -May 2, 2011)

A senior counter-terrorism advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama says targeted drone strikes abroad are a legal, ethical and wise option in order to ensure national security.

Speaking at an event in Washington Monday, White House official John Brennan credited what he called the "surgical" and "laser-like precision" of drone strikes in helping to remove the "cancerous tumor" of terrorism without harming the "civilian tissue" around it.

Brennan maintained that despite instances of civilian casualties, never before has there been a weapon that allows the U.S. government to carefully identify an al-Qaida leader and then target that person while minimizing collateral damage.

He said the Obama administration uses the "highest possible standards" in determining whether to use lethal force. He said authorities pick targets, in part, by weighing how much of a threat the person is to U.S. interests and whether there is a way to capture the individual. He also said host governments cooperate in the strikes in most cases, but that the United States is "obliged to take lives" if another nation "cannot or will not take action."

Brennan said he was describing in great detail the process behind targeted killings because President Obama wants his administration to be more open about it a year after a covert raid by U.S. special forces killed Osama bin Laden deep inside Pakistan.

Pakistan has demanded an end to U.S. drone strikes, arguing that they are counter-productive because they kill civilians, exacerbate anti-U.S. sentiment and violate sovereignty.  

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