Carney: US drone strikes ‘precise,’ ‘lawful’

The White House pushed back on Tuesday against reports from two human rights groups accusing the Obama administration of launching drone strikes that killed dozens of civilians and violated international law. [WATCH VIDEO]

Carney said the White House strongly disagrees with the assessments from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that U.S. drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan violated international law.

“To the extent these reports claim that the U.S. has acted contrary to international law, we would strongly disagree,” Carney said at Tuesday’s White House press briefing.

“The administration has repeatedly emphasized the extraordinary care that we take to make sure counterterrorism actions are in accordance with all applicable law,” he said.


Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International each released a report Tuesday documenting specific drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan that occurred from 2009-2013 under the Obama administration.

Amnesty International found 29 civilians had been killed in the nine Pakistan strikes it investigated, while Human Rights Watch said 57 civilians were among the 82 killed in six Yemen strikes.

The Human Rights Watch report said two of the six Yemen strikes were “in clear violation of international humanitarian law — the laws of war — because they struck only civilians or used indiscriminate weapons.”

Carney said that the White House was “reviewing these reports carefully,” and noted that President Obama acknowledged some civilian casualties had occurred in his May counterterrorism speech.

“U.S. counterterrorism operations are precise, they are lawful, and they are effective, and the United States does not take lethal strikes when we or our partners have the ability to capture individual terrorists,” Carney said.

“We take mindful of the absolute need to limit civilian casualties and to, in this case, reach a standard of near certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured, which is the highest standard we or any country could set,” he added.

Carney declined, however, to speak about specific operations or strikes.