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Lawmakers Ramp Up Pressure on Obama, Brennan to Come Clean Over Drones

Committee promises to 'pull out all the stops' at Brennan hearing

Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

John Brennan, nominee for CIA director, arrives at a meeting with Senate intelligence committee chairman Dianne Feinstein. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

A growing number of U.S. Congress members are now promising to ramp up pressure on the Obama Administration to reassess its lethal, and many say unconstitutional, use of drone strikes following this week's "white paper" leak, which exposed the Department of Justice's "profoundly disturbing" justification of drone executions of U.S. citizens.

"It has to be in the agenda of this Congress to reconsider the scope of action of drones and use of deadly force by the United States around the world because the original authorization of use of force, I think, is being strained to its limits," Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said in a recent interview.

Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland stated Tuesday that "it deserves a serious look at how we make the decisions in government to take out, kill, eliminate, whatever word you want to use, not just American citizens but other citizens as well."

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee may soon hold hearings on U.S. drone policy, an aide told news agencies Tuesday.

Following Monday's white paper leak, a bipartisan group of 11 senators wrote a letter urging President Barack Obama to release the Justice Department's still unreleased full legal opinion on drone strikes. The white paper, which had already been shown to senators several weeks ago, contains a memo which outlines the administrations rationale for such attacks; however, as Marcy Wheeler points out today, "it [is] not the actual legal memos used to authorize the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki and who knows who else..."

Wheeler continues, "The release of this white paper must not serve to take pressure off of the White House to release the actual memos," which contain a more detailed 50-page memorandum from the office of legal counsel, of which the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee have demanded "at least" 12 times.

In their letter to Obama, the 11 senators wrote, "We ask that you direct the Justice Department to provide Congress, specifically the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, with any and all legal opinions that lay out the executive branch's official understanding of the President's authority to deliberately kill American citizens."


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"The executive branch's cooperation on this matter will help avoid an unnecessary confrontation that could affect the Senate's consideration of nominees for national security positions," the Senators added, suggesting that Thursday's scheduled nomination of CIA director, and drone program architect, John Brennan could be held up if the administration doesn't release the full extent of legal memos.

The Senate Intelligence Committee members have promised to grill Brennan at the confirmation hearing, demanding more details—or else.

On Wednesday committee member Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., threatened to “pull out all the stops” at the hearing, suggesting the potential for a filibuster of Brennan's confirmation should Obama's team continue to hide the full extent of legal papers.

“I want it understood that because this is such a central [issue], you have an individual with enormous influence who is really the architect of the counterterror policy in the Obama administration that I am going to pull out all the stops to get the actual legal analysis because with out it, in effect, the administration is practicing secret law,” said Wyden.

In addition to the planned grilling of Brennan at the hearing, activist group CODEPINK is promising to make their distaste for the administration's drone policies known:

Stay tuned to at 2:30pm on Thursday to hear the Senators’ questions, Brennan’s answers and the response from those of us in the audience who don’t have many such occasions to express outrage at our government’s policy of remote-controlled killing.

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