White House won’t confirm reported drone strike against Waliur Rehman

Rachel Rose Hartman

Six days after President Barack Obama addressed criticisms about the use of drones to kill suspected terrorists and signed new guidelines regarding their usage, the White House declined to confirm the newest report of a drone strike.

The Associated Press, Reuters and other news outlets reported on Wednesday that a U.S. drone strike on Wednesday killed Pakistani Taliban leader Waliur Rehman. But White House press secretary Jay Carney wouldn't confirm those reports at Wednesday's press briefing.

"I cannot confirm reports that this individual is dead," Carney said in response to a reporter's question.

Carney, however, then addressed Rehman's hypothetical death: "I would simply say that his demise would deprive the TPP [Tehreek-e-Taliban] of its second-in-command and chief military strategist."

That statement prompted further questions from journalists about why the administration was addressing a death they didn't know existed. Carney said he chose to address what's known about the individual, but he was "not in a position to confirm reports of his death."

The drone strike is the first one reported since Obama's speech last Thursday at National Defense University, where he addressed drones, Guantanamo Bay and more. There, Obama said he had signed new drone guidelines and invited Congress to help him increase oversight of drone strikes.

The administration has faced criticism for its use of drones, from its targeting of Americans overseas to the program's lack of transparency.

Carney also said on Wednesday that reporters should not expect details on "every counterterrorism operation."