White House Releases Secret Drone Memos to Boost Brennan Confirmation

Posted: Mar 05, 2013 3:20 PM

The White House finally made secret Justice Department memos on drone policy against terror suspects overseas available to the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday , paving the way for John Brennan's expected confirmation as CIA director by the full Senate.

Senators on both sides previously only viewed 4 of the 11 memos, and intended to put a hold on Brennan’s confirmation until the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) made all of the documents available to the committee.

“I have reached an agreement with the White House to provide the committee access to all OLC opinions related to the targeted killing of Americans in a way that allows members to fulfill their oversight responsibilities,” Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D.-Cal) confirmed Tuesday in a press release. “I am pleased the administration has made this information available. It is important for the committee to do its work and will pave the way for the confirmation of John Brennan to be CIA director.”

Yet, Feinstein’s announcement does not clear every barrier to Brennan’s confirmation, there are at least two left, one on torture and the other on Benghazi.

Three key Senate Republicans threatened to stall or even block his nomination when it goes to a full vote.

Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.-SC) are leading the charge for the Benghazi records and have both threatened holds unless they get classified information, detailing the Obama administration's actions immediately following the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. They demand a review of FBI transcripts, of interviews with survivors who told FBI just two day after the attack there was no demonstration when four Americans were killed and emails among top U.S. national security officials.

They also want Brennan, who served as a senior CIA official during President George W. Bush's administration when “enhanced interrogation" practices were adopted, to clarify his inconsistent stance on the efficacy of waterboarding. Although Brennan has decried these methods, he also has said they saved lives, according to McCain, who said he is awaiting an explanation from Brennan.

"All we want is the answers," McCain said Monday. "I'm not threatening anything. I just think we deserve the answers."

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has threatened a hold until the Obama administration answers publicly whether it believes they have legal authority to conduct drone strikes within the United States and against US citizens.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans support the use of drones against suspected terrorists overseas, according to a recent Fox News poll. Sixty percent agree even if the targets are U.S. citizens.

Brennan, 57, has so far has escaped the bruising confirmation process that former Sen. Chuck Hagel, the president's choice to lead the Defense Department, received from Senate Republicans. If confirmed by the full Senate, he would replace Michael Morell, the CIA's deputy director who has been acting director since David Petraeus resigned in November after acknowledging an affair with his biographer.