White House defends drone program amid criticism

Posted by Lesley Clark on October 22, 2013 

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday disputed a report that claims the administration's targeted killing program violates international law.

Carney said the White House is carefully reviewing the report issued by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which found dozens of civilian victims in Yemen and Pakistan, including a 68- year-old grandmother who was hit while farming with her grandchildren.

Carney noted that Obama earlier this year in a speech "made clear that it is a hard fact that U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties," but also said that there is a "wide gap" between U.S. assessments of civilian casualties and those by nongovernment agencies.

"To the extent these reports claim that the U.S. has acted contrary to international law, we would strongly disagree," Carney said. "The administration has repeatedly emphasized the extraordinary care that we take to make sure counterterrorism actions are in accordance with all applicable law."

Carney read from Obama's speech at the National Defense University in which he argued that "conventional airpower or missiles are far less precise than drones and are likely to cause more civilian casualties and more local outrage."

"I think it's important to note that by narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life," Carney said.

He called U.S. counterterrorism operations "precise..lawful, and ...effective" and said the U.S. doesn't take lethal strikes when it or its partners are able to capture individual terrorists.

"Our preference is always to detain, interrogate and prosecute," he said, adding that civilian casualities are taken "enourmously seriously."

He said that before the U.S. takes strikes outside areas of active hostilities, "there must be near certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured, and that is the highest standard we or any country could set."


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