White House reporters tried in vain to get information from press secretary Jay Carney about a newly released paper that deals with the Obama administration's killing of American citizens.

The paper, which was obtained by NBC News, lays out some of the government's justification for the assassination of Americans with drone strikes. The memo says that the US can order the killing of Americans if they are believed to be senior Al Qaeda members, even if they are not actively plotting attacks.

Carney was asked about the paper at the very beginning of Tuesday's briefing. He called the strikes "legal, ethical and wise," and said that they were constitutionally sound.

“The president takes his responsibilities very seriously,” Carney said. “And first and foremost that’s his responsibility to protect the United States." He added that the strikes were conducted “in a way that is fully consistent with the Constitution and all the applicable laws."

And that, essentially, is all he would say, despite a torrent of questions about the paper.

ABC's Jon Karl wondered why it was more humane to "drop a bomb" on someone than to torture them. He also asked about the ACLU's blistering criticism of the paper.

Carney kept referring to a speech given by John Brennan, the current nominee for CIA chief, and saying that the program was consistent with the Constitution.

"You're taking away a citizen's due process," CBS' Bill Plante said. "Doesn't it deserve a broader debate at a broader court hearing?"

"The administration has ... reviewed these issues," Carney said. "Shouldn't they be considered beyond the executive branch?" Plante pressed.

"Internally, they have been reviewed with great care," Carney said.

NBC's Kristen Welker asked how the administration's stated desire for transparency squared with the secrecy surrounding the program.

"We need to inform the public the process that we're undertaking and the reasoning behind it, and the white paper that was provided to some members of Congress ... is part of that process," Carney said.

"But it was leaked," Welker pointed out.

"What is the administration's argument against releasing some form of the actual memos?" another reporter asked.

"I think it was a news organization that Kristen works for has put it out online," Carney replied, saying that reporters should read it now that it was available.

"Well, we request that you put it out," the reporter replied. "It is out there online," Carney said.

"It's not the same thing!" the reporter exclaimed. "I take your point," Carney said.

"Why does the government believe it's legal to kill Americans abroad, but not inside the US?" NPR's Ari Shapiro wondered. "There's no Constitutional distinction — it's just that capture is not feasible [inside the US]? If imminence is one of the major tests, a plot in the United States would be more imminent than something abroad?"

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  • Lahore

    Pakistani NGOs workers shout slogans against US drone attacks and religious fundamentalism during a protest in Lahore on October 21, 2010. (Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Manila

    Protesters set on fire to a mock model of a U.S. drone during a rally near the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines, on Friday Jan. 11, 2013. They protested an unarmed target drone found in central Philippine waters over the weekend which U.S. officials claimed was launched from a U.S. Navy ship during a combat exercise off Guam last year and may have been washed by ocean currents to the country. The embassy spokeswoman Bettina Malone said the BQM-74E drone was launched from the USS Chafee, a guided-missile destroyer, as a mock missile target during naval combat exercises off Guam. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

  • Islamabad

    American anti-war coalition CodePink activists, protest while fasting to condemn U.S. drone attacks in Pakistani tribal region, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012 in Islamabad, Pakistan. The placard, center, reads, "fasting for peace." (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)

  • New York

    Nick Mottern of Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., hands out information to a passerby as he stands beneath a model of an unmanned drone, which he labeled an "unmanned assasination vehicle" during an anti-war teach-in as part of the Occupy Wall Street protest now in its fourth week at Zuccotti Park in New York, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • Washington DC

    A cardboard 'drone' is seen at an occupy DC camp in Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC. Occupy DC's website states the movement is built on the example of Occupy Wall Street, whose activists have continuously camped out in a New York park since September 17. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Lahore

    Activists of the Pakistani fundamentalist Islamic party Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) shout slogans against the release of CIA contractor Raymond Davis and an US drone strike in the Pakistani tribal area, during a protest rally in Lahore on March 18, 2011. (Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Islamabad

    A Pakistani boy holds a placard during the second day of protests against the US drone attacks along with tribesmen of north Waziristan in Islamabad on December 10, 2010. (FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Washington DC

    Members of Pax Christi USA, Foreign Policy in Focus, CODEPINK and other organizations, mock and protest the unmanned US drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan on October 7, 2010 at Union Station in Washington DC. (KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Multan

    Pakistani demonstrators shout anti-US slogans during a protest in Multan on January 8, 2013, against the drone attacks in Pakistan's tribal areas. (S.S MIRZA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Islamabad

    American citizens rally in Islamabad, Pakistan against drone attacks in Pakistani tribal belt, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)

  • North Carolina

    Protesters march with a drone effigy outside Duke Energy headquarters in Uptown, the Charlotte the business district, before the start of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) September 2, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

  • Florida

    Thomas Bolanos holds an American flag as he joins others in a protest in front of a Raytheon company building which they say is building military drones on August 23, 2012 in Largo, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • Florida

    Dina Formentini (C) and Code Pink leader Medea Benjamin (R) join others in a protest in front of a Raytheon company building which they say is building military drones on August 23, 2012 in Largo, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • Florida

    Code Pink leader Medea Benjamin holds a sign reading, 'Raytheon's Drones Create Enemies,' as she joins others in a protest in front of a Raytheon company building which they say is building military drones on August 23, 2012 in Largo, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • Florida

    Clay Colson holds a sign reading, ' Healthcare not Warfare!', as he joins others in a protest in front of a Raytheon company building which they say is building military drones on August 23, 2012 in Largo, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • Florida

    Code Pink leader Medea Benjamin holds a sign reading, 'Raytheon's Drones Create Enemies,' as she listens to a police officer ask the group to move to a public sidewalk durin a protest in front of a Raytheon company building which they say is building military drones on August 23, 2012 in Largo, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • Florida

    Liz, who only wanted to be identified by her first name, holds a sign reading, 'Obama's Drones Kill Americans, Too,' as she joins others in a protest in front of a Raytheon company building which they say is building military drones on August 23, 2012 in Largo, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • Florida

    James L. holds a sign reading, ' Obama is just another war prez ', as he joins others in a protest in front of a Raytheon company building which they say is building military drones on August 23, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • Philippines

    Protesters display placards during a rally near the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines, on Friday Jan. 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

  • Philippines

    Protesters march towards the U.S. Embassy in Manila with a mock model of a U.S. drone Friday Jan. 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

  • YEMEN-UNREST-DEMO-DRONE

    Yemenis hold up a sign in Arabic that reads, 'No to Foreign Intervention...No to American Terrorism' during a protest against US drone attacks on Yemen close to the home of Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, in the capital Sanaa, on January 28, 2013. Strikes by US drones in Yemen nearly tripled in 2012 compared to 2011, with 53 recorded against 18, according to the Washington-based think-tank New America Foundation. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

  • YEMEN-UNREST-DEMO-DRONE

    A Yemeni hold up a banner during a protest against US drone attacks on Yemen close to the home of Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, in the capital Sanaa, on January 28, 2013. Strikes by US drones in Yemen nearly tripled in 2012 compared to 2011, with 53 recorded against 18, according to the Washington-based think-tank New America Foundation. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)