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Maddow To Robert Gibbs: Why Can't You Acknowledge Existence Of The Drone Program?

RACHEL MADDOW: Why were you told that you can't talk about it? Why were you told you can't acknowledge the existence of the program?

ROBERT GIBBS: Well, part of this program is highly classified, highly top secret and quite frankly, this program has existed for many years and very few, if any have ever publicly acknowledged that. That started -- that changed a bit last year late April of 2012 when John Brennan, who understood probably better than anybody, the inherent tension that I spoke about, which is it's not sustainable to have somebody sitting in the front row of the White House briefing room, or any journalist reading in the newspaper about a terrorist that's been killed by a program that when you ask me about it, I don't even talk about the fact that the program is there.

He understood there was that inherent unsustainable tension, and that some transparency absolutely had to take place. That's why I think if you -- and if your viewers go back and look at that speech that John gives in April of 2012, it's an extraordinary speech. It took a long time to get that speech through the bureaucracy and through the government so that somebody could finally, on camera, begin to speak about what this program entails.

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GIBBS: I will say this, the drone program has saved lives in this country. It has saved a lot of lives in our military. It's a program that has done great damage to al Qaeda, and that's a very, very good thing.

MADDOW: I don't think that is the controversial part of it. I think the controversial part of it is we seem to be waging war with part of our country that isn't designed to be accountable to us as civilians for war-making.

GIBBS: And again, I think that's the important aspect of what the president said during the State of the Union was to say, look, we are a democracy, we are a country that is bigger than any one person, regardless of who that president is. That president always has to be accountable to the people. That's the type of change that John was pushing for in that April speech. (Rachel Maddow Show, February 25, 2013)

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