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 claims.
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 lower level Afghan and Pakistani 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.
"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.
But CNN aired an interview Thursday with Pakistan's former military ruler, Pervez Musharraf who, for the first time, acknowledged Pakistan had secretly coordinated drone strikes with the U.S. Musharraf, who ruled until 2008 but is back in Pakistan looking to run for parliment, said it happened "only on a very few occassions, where the target was absolutely isolated and had no chance of collateral damage.
"It was discussed at the military level, at the intelligence level to strike," Musharraf said. "And that was very, very ... two or three times only. The answer used to be that it was a fleeting target and we couldn't delay action."
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.