Thursday, February 22, 2018

Counterterrorism official says drones help prevent deeper conflicts

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's top counterterrorism adviser defended using drones to launch deadly missiles against militants and terrorist leaders in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, arguing Monday that the unmanned aircraft have helped prevent deeper military conflicts.

The comments by John Brennan marked the first time that a senior White House official has spoken at length in public about drone operations, which have been widely reported but are officially covert.

The administration's growing reliance on drones has stirred deep controversy at home and abroad. On Sunday, unmanned aircraft killed at least three suspected militants in the tribal region of northern Pakistan despite the Pakistani government's insistence that the U.S. attacks have infringed on the country's sovereignty and killed or injured hundreds of civilians over the past three years.

But in a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a Washington-based think tank, Brennan said civilian casualties from drone strikes are "exceedingly rare."

"We take it seriously," he said. "We go back and review our actions."

Brennan strained to answer critics who have sought information for years on how U.S. officials decide whom to target and how often civilians have been accidentally killed in drone attacks.

"We only authorize a particular operation against a specific individual if we have a high degree of confidence that the individual being targeted is indeed the terrorist we are pursuing," he said. "This is a very high bar."

Brennan said the campaign of targeted drone strikes has reduced danger to U.S. pilots, limited civilian casualties and helped prevent deeper U.S. military actions overseas.

Until recently, no Obama administration official had publicly acknowledged the covert drone program, although hundreds of CIA drone strikes have been reported in Pakistan since 2009.

Obama acknowledged the classified program Jan. 30 when he said the United States has to be "judicious in how we use drones" in response to a question about attacks in Pakistan's tribal areas.

Brennan said he was speaking about the drone program because Obama had instructed officials to be more open about it.

Romano: Welcome to Florida, a state more afraid of conversation than guns

Romano: Welcome to Florida, a state more afraid of conversation than guns

Gun advocates are absolutely right about this:A ban on assault weapons will not end school shootings.How do we know?Because there was a federal ban on assault weapons for 10 years, and mass killings persisted. That’s because a ban deals only with fut...
Updated: 7 minutes ago

St. Petersburg Shuffleboard club to hold soiree

ST. PETERSBURG — "Cocktails on the Courts" — an evening of Florida cuisine, libations, music, auctions, live mermaids, a two-headed calf and shuffleboard — will benefit the St. Petersburg Museum of History. The event will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. Ma...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
Note to readers: About those annoying popups on your phones

Note to readers: About those annoying popups on your phones

Dear readers, I hope that you are able to see this and that a popup saying you’ve won a gift card hasn’t taken over your phone. We have heard from many of you that these popups are preventing you from reading our news coverage.We hate them as much as...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Spring is in the air as games start today

Spring is in the air as games start today

After a week of players stretching, doing mundane drills and practicing practice, spring training moves to the next phase today with the start of exhibition games.Ah, baseball in the sunshine.Consider it a soft opening in this part of the state, with...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Vague Facebook threat leads to response at Sickles High School

Vague Facebook threat leads to response at Sickles High School

This message went out to parents this morning at Sickles High School, in response to a very vague threat from outside the area:“This is Mary Freitas, from Sickles HS. Parents, as you may be aware, there has been a Facebook post circulating rega...
Updated: 12 minutes ago

Pastor invites public to service at Manhattan Casino

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rev. Basha Jordan, grandson of St. Petersburg’s pioneer African-American businessman Elder Jordan, who built the historic Manhattan Casino, is inviting the community to join him and other pastors for a service at the facility on ...
Updated: 14 minutes ago

Celebration at Enoch Davis Center is Friday

ST. PETERSBURG — The Enoch Davis Center will host a free Black History Month celebration Friday. The program, which will run from from 6 to 8 p.m., will include activities for the entire family and food, entertainment, music and prizes. There will a...
Updated: 17 minutes ago
Man rescued after boat swept away, capsizes in Little Manatee River

Man rescued after boat swept away, capsizes in Little Manatee River

RUSKIN — A man was rescued early Thursday morning after Hillsborough County deputies say his boat was swept away by a strong tide and capsized in the Little Manatee River.According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, a 911 call was received ...
Updated: 18 minutes ago

Crescent Heights neighborhood working to save historic church

ST. PETERSBURG — The Crescent Heights Neighborhood Association says it wants to save one of the area’s historic buildings from demolition.The association says the American Baptist Church of the Beatitudes, at 2812 Eighth St. N, is being sold to a loc...
Updated: 20 minutes ago

Jury to decide fate of man who abducted, killed Florida girl

Jurors who took less than 15 minutes to convict a Florida man of abducting, raping and killing an 8-year-old girl will now decide whether he should be executed or spend the rest of his life in prison
Updated: 24 minutes ago