By Justin Sink
That came two days after NBC News obtained a copy of an unclassified white paper outlining the specific circumstances under which the United States can conduct a lethal drone strike against an American citizen.
In the document, the Justice Department concludes that a lethal strike against a senior operational leader of al Qaeda — or an affiliated terrorist group — can occur if a three-part test is met: that a high-level American intelligence official has determined the individual poses an imminent threat, that capture is infeasible, and that the strike is conducted according to the laws of war governing use of force. It is the first glimpse at the official reasoning behind the legality of drone strikes against American citizens.
On Wednesday, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said the president had told him he would also begin a more public discussion of the drone program and its ramifications.
But asked Thursday, Carney hedged, indicating that the president might not himself discuss the drone program going forward.
"As I’ve noted in recent days, because the president believes these are weighty matters and that the questions about how we move forward in our counterterrorism efforts are so important, and the need to build a legal structure that guides those efforts, that survives and -- in place beyond this administration," Carney said. "Because of his interest in this, senior administration officials — among them the Attorney General, John Brennan, counsel from the Defense Department and others — have given public remarks about this issue that have been part of the very conversation, the discussion in public that the president believes needs to be had. And that will continue. So I think that’s what Sen. Wyden was referring to."