White House counterterrorism official John Brennan publicly described how al-Qaeda targets are chosen for drone strikes, the first time the Obama administration has described the widely known practice so openly and in such detail. Brennan, speaking in Washington today, said President Obama wants to be more transparent with the American public a year after a raid by Navy commandos killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Brennan said targets are chosen by weighing whether there is a way to capture the person against how much of a threat the person presents to Americans. The strikes are legal, Brennan said, comparing them to targeting Japanese and German commanders in World War II. He said use of drones was ethical because "only military objectives may be intentionally targeted and that civilians are protected from being intentionally targeted." He acknowledged, however, that civilian targets had been hit. But did not directly acknowledge the CIA's covert campaign in Pakistan, which has caused friction with the Pakistani government. (Read more drones stories.)