White House press secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday expressed concern for civilian deaths from U.S. drone strikes, but said the counterterrorism operations are “precise, they are lawful and they are effective.”
Carney's comments came after a new report Tuesday from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said that U.S. armed drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen had killed more civilians than terror targets.
The Obama administration's drone policies, which target suspected terrorists abroad -- including American citizens -- have drawn criticism from rights groups and some lawmakers. But the White House has defended the policies as a last resort to stopping terrorists and said that great care has been taken to saving civilian lives.
Carney on Tuesday said the White House was “reviewing these reports carefully.”
“To the extent these reports claim that the U.S. has acted contrary to international law, we would strongly disagree,” he added. “The administration has repeatedly emphasized the extraordinary care that we take to make sure counterterrorism actions are in accordance with all applicable law.”
Carney said Obama’s May speech defending his drone policy addressed why the U.S. continued to rely on the lethal strikes.
“Conventional air power or missiles are far less precise than drones and are likely to cause more civilian casualties and more local outrage,” said Carney of the president’s position.
“It is a hard fact that U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties,” admitted Carney, calling that a “risk that exists in all wars.” But he said the U.S. took pains to minimize civilian casualties.
“The United States does not take lethal strikes when we or our partners have the ability to capture individual terrorists. Our preference is always to detain, interrogate and prosecute,” said Carney.
“We take extraordinary care to make sure that our counterterrorism actions are in accordance with all applicable domestic and international law and that they are consistent with U.S. values and U.S. policy,” he added.