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In an apparent reference to U.S. drone strikes, President Obama in his State of the Union speech defended the administration's continued use of "direct action" against terrorists and promised to work with Congress to ensure such targeting is lawful and transparent.
The president said that "where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans."
The use of drones to kill suspected terrorists in places such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia is an issue that has resurfaced amid confirmation hearings for John Brennan to become the new head of the Central Intelligence Agency and the release of a White House memo outlining the legal rationale for the program. Brennan played a key role in guiding the use of drone strikes during Obama's first term.
But many experts question the legality of such strikes, especially when they are carried out against U.S. citizens, as in the case of the September 2011 killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American living in Yemen who was allegedly a senior al-Qaida figure.
The president on Tuesday sought to reassure Congress and the public that as such programs are conducted, "we must enlist our values in the fight."
"That is why my administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism operations," Obama said.
"Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts," the president said. "I recognize that in our democracy, no one should just take my word that we're doing things the right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world."
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