Brennan: Drone strikes only used as 'last resort' to save lives

White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan gave a forceful defense of the drone program, which a Department of Justice white paper this week said was legal even when used to kill U.S. citizens who are suspected of terrorism.

The days leading up to the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing had featured a clash between the White House and members of Congress, who had demanded more information from the administration on its legal rationale for defending the use of drones to kill even U.S. citizens.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the leading critic in Congress of the drone program, asked Brennan a series of tough questions on the lack of information on the program, and its legality.

"[Don’t Americans] have the right to know when their government has the right to kill them?" Wyden asked.

In response, Brennan gave a careful defense of the program but also pledged that under his direction, the CIA would be as open and transparent as possible about the use of armed drones.

He said the government should tell its citizens when drones are used to take out suspected terrorists on foreign soil. "As far as I am concerned ... the U.S. should [publicly] acknowledge it," he said.

Read more on The Hill's DEFCON Hill blog.