Feinstein veils criticism of Obama over drone strikes

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The Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee hinted Tuesday at criticism of President Obama for openly discussing the still-classified CIA program of drone missile strikes against al Qaeda leaders.

“Once again, this committee has been put in a difficult position of trying to avoid any mention of classified matters when various parts of the executive branch may be doing somewhat the opposite,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said Tuesday during a committee hearing on foreign intelligence threats.

“I ask members to be careful in their questions and statements and to remember that public discussion of some intelligence programs and assets can lead to them being compromised,” she added in her opening remarks.

In a video chat on Google+ and YouTube on Monday, Mr. Obama said U.S. drones have struck Taliban and al Qaeda targets inside Pakistan. Before then, the drone strikes had not been acknowledged on the record by U.S. officials, although some have come close.

“For the most part, they’ve been very precise precision strikes against al Qaeda and their affiliates, and we’re very careful in terms of how it’s been applied,” Mr. Obama said.

“This is a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists, who are trying to go in and harm Americans, hit American facilities, American bases, and so on,” he added.

Asked if her comments were a criticism of Mr. Obama, Mrs. Feinstein responded in an e-mailed statement: “I was not criticizing the president. I was reminding the committee about protecting classified information.”

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