With pressure mounting on the Obama administration regarding its drone policy — in particular, its policy on targeted killings with drones — the president and his supporters have been trying to fight back against criticism.
Yesterday, President Barack Obama released to the Senate and House intelligence committees the Justice Department memos that authorized the killing of U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki in Yemen in 2011. Awlaki worked with Al Qaeda as a recruiter and spokesman, and was previously from New Mexico.
What prompted the release was complaints by senators prepping for Central Intelligence Agency director nominee John Brennan’s confirmation hearing in the Senate today. For months, they had been demanding information on the Awlaki killing, as well as information on other aspects of the drone strike program spearheaded by the CIA.
Much of today’s hearing revolved around the drone program. Questions were asked about the program’s secrecy, their legal basis, and the impact they’ve had on U.S. relations with Pakistan and Yemen.
Another interesting twist in the hearing came when Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said that she was reviewing proposals to create a court to oversee targeted killings, similar to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that oversees secret wiretapping in the U.S.
While Brennan said he understood there was “widespread debate” about the administration’s counter-terrorism efforts, he defended them against criticism, saying America was “at war with Al Qaeda.”
Still, he was willing to concede that CIA drone strikes that accidentally kill civilians need to be acknowledged, although they were “exceedingly rare.” He also said Feinstein’s court idea was worthy of future consideration.
Still, Brennan didn’t back down from staunchly defending Obama’s policies, even in the face of sharp questioning from senators and loud complaints from protestors in the hearing room. After five interruptions, several by the group Code Pink, Feinstein, the committee’s chairwoman, ordered them removed. The remainder of the hearing took place in a nearly empty room.
– Benjamin Nanamaker, InvestorPolitics Editor
The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.
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