Oregon Senator questions CIA nominee on drone strikesWednesday, February 6, 2013 at 10:57 am by Yiqian Wang
In a letter to the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) nominee, Senator Ron Wyden questioned chief counter-terrorism expert John Brennan on the existent regulations that dictate U.S. policy towards the targeted killings of American citizens suspected of harboring terrorist ties. These specific rules are believed to have been written by Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys David Barron and Marty Lederman of the U.S. Department of Justice in 2010, though the contents of these rules have remained undisclosed. A member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Wyden asks:
How much evidence does the President need to determine that a particular American can be lawfully killed? Does the President have to provide individual Americans with the opportunity to surrender before killing them?
Similarly, Wyden inquired into the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen and member of al-Qaeda, who was killed without due process of the law by a missile strike in September 2011. Since 2011, considerable debate has emerged over the legality of the drone strike, and legal action has been taken by members of the Awlaki family as well as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against the Obama administration. However, such inquiries into the nature of drone strikes on U.S. citizens have been largely unsuccessful, as judges have continually sustained the government’s objections to the formal release of such documents.
In response to the administration’s previous refusals to divulge the contents of the guidelines, Wyden asserts:
For the executive branch to claim that intelligence agencies have the authority to knowingly kill American citizens but refuse to provide Congress with any and all legal opinions that explain the executive branch’s understanding of this authority represents an alarming and indefensible assertion of executive prerogative.
While the likelihood of his confirmation as CIA director is extremely high, Brennan is expected to face a difficult and intensive confirmation hearing, especially regarding his possible role in certain security leaks in 2012 and his support for torture as a tactic in the war on terror. Moreover, the hearings will also inquire into the normalization of drone strikes, in which Brennan arguably had significant influence. Senator Wyden has neither indicated his endorsement nor rejection of the Brennan nomination, though he has stated his willingness to participate in frank discussions with Brennan about such national security and civil liberties issues.