Political Headlines February 5, 2013: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: Drone Strikes on Terror Suspects ‘Legal,’ ‘Ethical,’ ‘Wise’ — Press Briefing Transcript

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

White House: Drone Strikes on Terror Suspects ‘Legal,’ ‘Ethical,’ ‘Wise’

Source: ABC News Radio, 2-5-13

JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images

The White House on Tuesday defended the use of targeted drone strikes against American citizens abroad suspected of high-level terrorist activity, but declined to detail the criteria for ordering such an attack.

“Sometimes we use remotely piloted aircraft to conduct targeted strikes against specific al-Qaida terrorists in order to prevent attacks on the United States and to save American lives,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters….READ MORE

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 2/5/13

Q    Thank you.  How can the government determine that an American citizen is an imminent threat to the U.S. or U.S. interests without having any kind of specific evidence that that person is planning an immediate — an attack in the immediate future?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, the question, obviously, that you ask relates to some stories out today regarding a document prepared  — an unclassified document prepared for some members of Congress — and understandable questions.  And I can just say that this President takes his responsibilities very seriously, and first and foremost, that’s his responsibility, to protect the United States and American citizens.  He also takes his responsibility in conducting the war against al Qaeda as authorized by Congress in a way that is fully consistent with our Constitution and all the applicable laws.

We have acknowledged, the United States, that sometimes we use remotely piloted aircraft to conduct targeted strikes against specific al Qaeda terrorists in order to prevent attacks on the United States and to save American lives.  We conduct those strikes because they are necessary to mitigate ongoing actual threats, to stop plots, prevent future attacks, and, again, save American lives.  These strikes are legal, they are ethical and they are wise.  The U.S. government takes great care in deciding to pursue an al Qaeda terrorist, to ensure precision and to avoid loss of innocent life.

As you know, in spite of these stories — or prior to these stories, this administration, through numerous senior administration officials, including Deputy National Security and Counterterrorism Advisor John Brennan, State Department Legal Advisor Harold Koh, and former Department of Defense General Counsel Jeh Johnson — have spoken publicly and at length about the U.S. commitment to conducting counterterrorism operations in accordance with all applicable domestic and international law, including the laws of war.

In March 2012, the Attorney General gave a speech at Northwestern University Law School in which he outlined the legal framework that would apply if it was necessary to take a strike against one of the “small number of U.S. citizens who have decided to commit violent acts against their own country from abroad.”  The Attorney General made clear that in taking such a strike, the government must take into account all relevant constitutional considerations, but that under generations-old legal principles and Supreme Court decisions, U.S. citizenship alone does not make a leader of an enemy force immune from being targeted.

Q    But how can the government decide that there’s an imminent threat if there’s no evidence that an attack is happening in the immediate future?

MR. CARNEY:  As you know, Congress authorized in an authorization of the use of military force all necessary military force to be used in our fight against al Qaeda.  And certainly under that authority, the President acts in the United States’ interest to protect the United States and its citizens from al Qaeda.

The nature of the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates is certainly different from the kinds of conflicts that have involved nations against nations.  But this has been discussed amply, again, in the effort that we have made through our senior administration officials to explain the process that we use, by the officials I named — by John Brennan in a speech, and he addressed this very issue about “imminent.”

I would point you to the now-released — it was not meant for public release, but it’s not classified — the now-released white paper, which goes into some detail on that very issue.

Q    Should the American people be comfortable with the administration’s definition of “imminent” if it also means that there is no specific evidence to back that up?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, again, I think that what you have in general with al Qaeda senior leadership is a continuing process of plotting against the United States and American citizens, plotting attacks against the United States and American citizens. I think that’s fairly irrefutable.

What you also have is the authorization for the use of military force by Congress.  You also have a President who is very mindful of the very questions that you are asking and is, in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief, taking all the necessary steps to ensure that he fulfills his constitutional obligation to protect the United States and its citizens, and does so in a way that comports with our Constitution and with our laws.

Q    Did he sign off on this memo and any classified documents to back it up?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I certainly have no information on any classified documents.  I don’t know the specific process by which this memo was generated.

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