President Obama's top terrorism adviser today publicly defended the use of drones to kill members of al Qaeda and other terrorists, offering the most detailed justification of the controversial tactic to date.
John Brennan, assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, said drones are only deployed after every effort is made to capture suspected terrorists alive.
"What we always want to do is look at whether or not there is an option to get this person and bring them to justice," Brennan said in speech to the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington think tank.
Brennan used the speech to discuss the tools that the United States is using to combat terrorism in the year since Osama bin Laden was killed in the raid on his compound in Pakistan. He said that while a live suspect can have value for intelligence purposes, there are times that U.S. officials are justified in ordering a drone strike.
"We are not a court. We're not trying to determine guilt or innocence and carry out a strike in retaliation," said Brennan. "What we're trying to do is prevent the loss of lives through terrorist attacks."
Brennan's remarks were briefly interrupted by a woman protesting the deaths of innocent people killed as collateral damage in drone strikes. She was carried from the room by a security guard.