WASHINGTON -- White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan appeared on three separate Sunday morning programs to discuss the administration's efforts against al Qaeda a year after President Barack Obama ordered the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
"We're on the path towards al Qaeda's destruction, and the president has committed that we're not going to rest until al Qaeda is destroyed as an organization," Brennan told CNN's "State of the Union with Candy Crowley." "We're not going to relent until they're brought to justice one way or the other. We demonstrated the ability to do that with bin Laden."
Last week, the Obama campaign team released a video lauding the dramatic May 2, 2011, raid on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and suggesting that Mitt Romney, the prospective GOP presidential nominee, would not have done the same. The campaign video drew strong criticism from the Romney camp as well as from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a Romney supporter and Obama's opponent in the 2008 election.
Crowley of CNN, George Stephanopoulos of ABC's "This Week" and Chris Wallace of "Fox News Sunday" each tried to pin Brennan down on whether he believed Romney would have ordered bin Laden's killing had he had the chance.
"I don't do politics. I'm not a Democrat or a Republican," Brennan told Wallace in a statement echoed across the other programs, apparently responding to those accusing the president of politicizing the raid. "I just try to do what I can to keep the American people safe."
Still, Brennan made sure to burnish Obama's tough-on-terror image. "President Obama made the decision that brought Osama bin Laden to justice," he told CNN. "It was a tough decision, as we know the evidence was not there as far as an ironclad case. A lot of it was circumstantial. I just know that President Obama, when the time came for him to make a momentous decision like that, he took the action that did bring bin Laden to justice."
"It is something that I think was overdue," Brennan said on Fox News. "I'm glad we seized the opportunity when we had it so bin Laden could kill no more."
Looking to the post-bin Laden world, Brennan spent time on each program stressing the importance of U.S. drones along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border as well as in Yemen, where they were used to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who served as a propagandist for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Al-Awlaki helped train the so-called underwear bomber, who tried to set off a bomb while on a plane over the United States on Christmas Day 2009.
The drone "is a tremendously capable tool to use against the terrorists abroad," Brennan said on Fox News. "It has capability to monitor [terror suspects'] activities. It provides a good insight to our intelligence analysts and operators." He added, "It has the capability to carry out strikes as well."
With those strikes, however, have come civilian casualties that have frayed U.S. relations with the Afghan, Pakistani and Yemeni governments, which are caught between supporting American anti-terrorism efforts and responding to their own restive populations.
"We've been very judicious in working with our partners to try to be surgical in terms of addressing those terrorist threats," Brennan told ABC. "The president has told us we want to make sure that we protect the American people, and unfortunately, sometimes you have to take life to save lives."
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