Senators delay Brennan CIA vote over drone memos
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate Intelligence Committee will delay voting to confirm John Brennan as CIA director as the panel's Democratic chairwoman demanded Wednesday that the White House turn over more details about lethal drone strikes on terror suspects and last September's attack in Benghazi, Libya, that left the U.S. ambassador there and three other Americans dead.
Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said the vote likely will be pushed off until late February.
In a statement, the California Democrat said senators need to see more classified legal opinions that justify using the unmanned spy planes to kill al-Qaida suspects overseas, including American citizens. The Obama administration last week released two of nine classified Justice Department memos outlining the legal reasoning to Feinstein's committee just hours before Brennan's confirmation hearing in front of the panel.
Feinstein said the memos are necessary "in order to fully evaluate the executive branch's legal reasoning, and to broaden access to the opinions to appropriate members of the committee staff."
The White House declined to comment Wednesday.
Feinstein and other lawmakers are considering creating a special court to review strikes against U.S. citizens. In 2011, drone strikes in Yemen killed three Americans: U.S. born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, his 16-year-old-son and al-Qaida propagandist Samir Khan.
Last week, Brennan defended the strikes in his confirmation testimony, but also said he welcomed more discussion on the controversial program.
"American citizens by definition are due much greater due process than anybody else by dint of their citizenship," Brennan told Feinstein's committee.
The Senate and House Judiciary committees also want to see the documents, and other lawmakers are pressing the White House for more for information on the Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi the killed Ambassador Chris Stevens.