September 30th, 2011
08:24 PM ET

Panetta: "If you're a terrorist, you're a terrorist."

Secy. of Defense Leon Panetta talks to CNN’s Erin Burnett about the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki and more. This highlight ran during the 6 p.m. ET hour of The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer and the full interview will run on Erin Burnett OutFront when the program debuts on Monday, October 3rd at 7 p.m. ET – Tune in to CNN. A highlight from the exclusive interview is below. Please visit the CNN Press Room for additional information.

Please credit all usage of the interview to CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront

Highlight from Full Interview

THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED

JOE JOHNS, GUEST HOST, CNN'S "THE SITUATION ROOM": This just in to CNN.

The new defense secretary is reacting to the killing of Anwar Al-Awlaki. Until this summer, Leon Panetta was director of the CIA, which was hunting for Al-Awlaki. Here's what he told CNN's Erin Burnett in an exclusive interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIN BURNETT, HOST, "ERIN BURNETT OUT FRONT": And I'm curious, there's been discussion of the ACLU today saying, he's an American citizen, so perhaps the fact that it was a CIA drone, which killed him, was possibly illegal because he didn't have a trial and he was an American citizen.

Are you confident that you're clear legally here?

LEON E. PANETTA, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: This individual was clearly a terrorist. And yes, he was a citizen, but if you're a terrorist, you're a terrorist. And that means that we have the ability to go after those who would threaten to attack the United States and kill Americans. There's no question that the authority and the ability to go after a terrorist is there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Be sure to check out Erin's new show, "ERIN BURNETT OUT FRONT," beginning Monday night at 7:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

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