U.S. President Barack Obama says his administration is not politicizing the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, pushing back on criticism that the White House is indulging in "excessive celebration" over the terrorist leader's death.
Speaking days before the first anniversary of the U.S. commando raid in Pakistan that killed the al-Qaida leader, Obama said Monday that there are others - an apparent reference to his presumed Republican challenger in the November election - who have reversed position on going ahead with such a mission.
Without mentioning Mitt Romney by name, Obama recommended looking at people's previous statements on the issue. Romney said several years ago that it was not worth a tremendous, costly effort to go after one person, but on Monday said "of course" he would have ordered bin Laden killed.
"I said that I would go after bin Laden if we had a clear shot at him and I did. If there are others who have said one thing and now suggest they'd do something else, then I'd go ahead and let them explain it," Obama reiterated during a White House news conference.
Marking the one-year anniversary, Obama will be featured in a NBC TV news special Wednesday that includes an interview in the White House Situation Room where he and his top aides watched the raid on bin Laden's compound unfold live.
The bin Laden raid and drone strikes have hurt U.S. relations with Pakistan.
On Monday, Obama's counterterrorism adviser defended the use of unmanned aerial strikes against terrorism suspects overseas, in the administration's first such detailed public comments on the controversial program.
John Brennan said the "targeted strikes are legal,'' citing U.S. law and noting that the United States is in an armed conflict with al-Qaida, the Taliban and other associated forces in response to the al-Qaida terror attacks of September 11, 2001.
The killing of suspected militants, including American citizens overseas, by U.S. drones has been criticized by human rights and civil liberties groups. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit earlier this year seeking Justice Department memos justifying the targeted killings.
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