WASHINGTON - Deadly CIA drone strikes against al Qaeda militants in Yemen, including US-born Anwar al-Awlaki, originated in Saudi Arabia, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
But they reported the location after The New York Times reported the CIA quietly established a drone base in Saudi Arabia two years ago to carry out strikes in Yemen.
That report effectively ended the arrangement among the news organisations, many of which had been aware of the location for more than a year.
The Post said it had cooperated with the administration because the officials said exposing the facility would undermine operations against al Qaeda affiliate regarded as the militant networks most powerful and influential anti-US threat.
The administration had also said reporting the location might damage counter-terrorism collaboration with Saudi Arabia, the Post said.
The administration had no comment on the release of the Saudi Arabian location. The al Qaeda affiliate in the Arabian Peninsula is primarily active in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi Arabian base from which drones killed Awlaki Sept. 30, 2011, also launched the drones that killed deputy al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Said Ali al-Shihri on Jan. 22, the Times said.
Shihri was suspected of involvement in a deadly bombing of the US Embassy in Yemen's capital, Sana, in September 2009 as well as the kidnappings and murders of foreigners in Yemen.
Shihri was one of the first detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba, arriving Jan. 21, 2002. He was released to Saudi Arabian custody on Nov. 9, 2007, the US Defence Department said.
In Saudi Arabia he went through a rehabilitation and reintegration programme and was released in 2008.
He resurfaced with al-Qaeda in Yemen in January 2009.
The disclosure of CIA's Saudi Arabian drone base came as the architect of the drone strikes programme, John Brennan, prepared to face the Senate on Thursday for a confirmation hearing to become CIA director.
Brennan has been the principal coordinator of a "kill list" of al Qaeda operatives marked for death. He also has advised President Barack Obama on which strikes he should approve, the Times said.
Individual strikes by Predator and Reaper drones are almost never discussed publicly by Obama administration officials.
The secrecy surrounding the kill list and drone strikes, including those killing Americans, was punctured on Monday with the disclosure of a 16-page US Justice Department "white paper" that spells out the administration's case for killing Americans accused of being al Qaeda operatives.
The white paper, first reported by NBC News, says Washington can lawfully kill one of its own citizens overseas if "an informed, high-level official" determines the person is a "senior, operational leader" of al Qaeda or one of its affiliates and poses "an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States," provided his capture was not feasible.
Administration officials on Tuesday sought to play down the disclosure's significance, with White House spokesman Jay Carney stating the administration previously spoke about the principles outlined in the unclassified document in speeches, including one by Brennan.