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A U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle takes off from Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, on a night mission Dec. 27, 2009. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Efren Lopez/Released)

The U.S. campaign of drone strikes to kill militants in other countries is legal under international law, President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism adviser insisted on Monday in a rare public admission and justification of the controversial tactic.

John Brennan’s speech, on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the U.S. killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a raid in Pakistan, was remarkable in that U.S. officials in public rarely discuss the drone program, which has for years been considered a covert CIA operation.

“I’m here today because President Obama has instructed us to be more open with the American people about these efforts,” Brennan said in a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a Washington think tank.

“These targeted strikes are legal,” he said, citing legal opinions from the administration, the U.S. Constitution and the Authorization for Use of Military Force passed by Congress after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Source: Tabassum Zakaria for Reuters.

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