White House declines comment on drone documents

April 11, 2013 

The White House declined Thursday to comment on classified U.S. intelligence reports that show that drone strikes in Pakistan over a four-year period didn't adhere to the standards President Obama had claimed.

The administration has said its drone strikes are aimed at senior operational leaders of al-Qaeda and associated forces involved in plotting attacks against the U.S., but the documents reviewed by McClatchy list killings of alleged Afghan insurgents whose organization wasn't on the U.S. list of terrorist groups at the time of the 9/11 strikes, as well as unidentified individuals described as "other militants" and "foreign fighters."

Press Secretary Jay Carney said he wouldn't talk about classified documents that the newspapers had obtained.

"I can tell you that our strategy in dealing with counterterrorism is to utilize the tools available to us," Carney said. "When it comes to the means with which we do that, the president has addressed it. And we have been, as an administration, very transparent through a series of speeches by John Brennan, the attorney general, and by others, as well as comments by the president about the approach that we take in that effort."

Asked about the reports that also show the U.S. working with Pakistan's intelligence agency on strikes that killed Pakistani insurgent leaders, Carney again refused comment.

"Again, I don't have any comment on what you are representing as classified information," he said. CIA Director John Brennan took a similar tack at a House Intelligence Committee meeting, after Rep. Jan Schakowsky asked him to address "claims that the scopes of the attacks is much wider than has been suggested."

Brennan, who said, "there are a lot of things that are printed in the press that are inaccurate in my mind and misrepresentative of the facts," said he wouldn't talk about "specific activities or operations in any part of the world."

Brennan, who was pressed on the drone program during his confirmation hearings, called it his responsibility as CIA director to "make sure that we do whatever we can to work with our partners overseas to take these individuals off the battlefield that are plotting to kill American citizens."

Asked if there was any way the U.S. could distinguish between targeted strikes and signature strikes by drones, Brennan pointed to remarks made in speeches, including his own.

"I'm not going to engage in any type of discussion on that here to the Congress, ma'am," he said.

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