Dozens of Americans have joined terrorist groups and are posing a threat to the United States and its interests abroad, the president's most senior adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security said Thursday in an interview with The Washington Times.
"There are, in my mind, dozens of U.S. persons who are in different parts of the world, and they are very concerning to us," said John O. Brennan, deputy White House national security adviser for homeland security and counterterrorism.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Times, Brennan said he would not talk about lists of targeted American terrorists. However, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies have been tracking down U.S. nationals and U.S. passport holders who pose security threats, like the Yemen-based Al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, he said.
"They are concerning to us, not just because of the passport they hold, but because they understand our operational environment here, they bring with them certain skills, whether it be language skills or familiarity with potential targets, and they are very worrisome, and we are determined to take away their ability to assist with terrorist attacks," Brennan said.
The remarks came in response to questions about procedures used by the president to order lethal strikes on U.S. citizens who have joined Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups.
On Feb. 3, Dennis C. Blair, then director of national intelligence, said in congressional testimony that special permission must first be obtained by military or intelligence forces before what he termed "direct action" strikes against American citizens.