CIA nominee defends drones

President Obama’s nominee to lead the CIA defended the administration’s drone program ahead of his confirmation hearing on Thursday, saying it was executed with “extraordinary care.”

White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan said that the drone attacks have made the U.S. safer and that military and intelligence officials have taken pains to prevent the unnecessary loss of life.

Drones “dramatically reduce the danger to U.S. personnel and to innocent civilians,” Brennan said in written responses to questions from senators ahead of his confirmation hearing.

While acknowledging there have been instances where civilians were killed, he called them “exceedingly rare, and much rarer than many allege.”

The program is at the center of a storm of controversy over the administration’s legal defense for using drones to kill U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism.

It is a possible hurdle to Brennan’s confirmation, as senators have demanded more information from the administration on its legal rationale.

In an effort to help Brennan’s confirmation, President Obama on Wednesday reversed course and offered a briefing for Senate Intelligence Committee members on the legal justification for the program.