'Under fire' White House defends 'controversial' US drone strikes programme as 'wise'

Last Updated: Wed, Feb 06, 2013 07:10 hrs

The White House and Justice Department has adamantly defended the administration's decision to use unmanned drones to kill terrorists, even if those operatives are U.S. citizens, following the release of a controversial memo on the programme.

President Barack Obama's advisers are also trying to tamp down concerns about the targeted killings ahead of the confirmation hearing on Thursday for CIA director nominee John Brennan.

According to Fox News, pressed repeatedly about the complicated constitutional and legal questions raised by the targeted killing of Americans, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that the president takes those issues 'very seriously'.

But he noted that Al Qaeda is in a 'state of war against us', and defended what he described as "'targeted strikes against specific Al Qaeda terrorists', the report said.

Carney said that 'they have conducted those strikes because they are necessary to mitigate ongoing actual threats, to stop plots, to prevent future attacks and to save American lives.

He added that 'these strikes are legal, they are ethical and they are wise'.

A Justice Department official, though, said that there are at least three conditions that have to be met in order for a strike to be ordered.

He said that there has to be an 'imminent' threat, the target has to have engaged in terrorist activities, and the target has to be unable to be captured.

Under Obama, the U.S. drone programme has ramped up dramatically since the George W. Bush administration.

It has become one of the most important tools in the administration's counterterrorism campaign, particularly in Pakistan, but also in the expanding fronts of the war against Al Qaeda and its affiliates.

The programme is under scrutiny after the 2011 drone strike in Yemen that killed two Americans, Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan.

It marked the first time an American citizen was targeted for death by a U.S. president and killed in a drone strike, it added. (ANI)

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