Intel committee to vote next week on CIA nominee
The Senate Intelligence Committee is scheduled to vote early next week on John Brennan's nomination to be director of the CIA, the panel's leaders said Thursday.
The Democratic leader of the committee had hoped to hold the vote Thursday. But Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the committee's vice chairman, said consideration of Brennan's nomination was delayed because he and other committee members had not received all the material they'd requested from the White House about lethal drone strikes against terror suspects and the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
"Once we get the documents, we're actually getting what we want," Chambliss said. "But it's just been slow in coming."
The committee's chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Chambliss said the intelligence committee is slated to vote Tuesday on Brennan's bid to lead the spy agency. Feinstein said she believes the panel will approve the Brennan's nomination for a vote by the full Senate.
Brennan is currently working as President Barack Obama's top counterterrorism adviser in the White House.
Feinstein would not describe on Thursday the records that lawmakers requested from the Obama administration because she said they are classified. But Feinstein said the White House has promised to provide all the material prior to the vote. "We have gotten one set of information and the second one, I am assured, is forthcoming," she said.
Earlier this week, however, Feinstein was more specific. She said Monday that the White House had committed to providing the Benghazi records. But Feinstein also said at the time that the administration had not yet responded to the committee's request for more details about a series of classified Justice Department legal opinions that justify using unmanned spy planes to kill al-Qaida suspects overseas, including American citizens.
Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, said Thursday in an emailed statement that administration officials are talking to members of Congress about their requests for information, but he did not indicate whether those requests had been granted.
The White House released two out of a total of 11 Justice Department legal opinions to the intelligence committee just hours before Brennan's Feb. 7 confirmation hearing in front of the panel. Two other memos had already been released to the committee.
While it's primarily been the Republicans who've demanded the Benghazi documents, the push for the Justice opinions has been bipartisan.
During his confirmation hearing, Brennan defended drone strikes only as a "last resort." But he also said he had no qualms about going after U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in September 2011. A drone strike in Yemen killed al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, both U.S. citizens. A drone strike two weeks later killed al-Awlaki's 16-year-old son, a Denver native.
In a letter sent earlier this month to Obama, 11 senators, including Republicans Charles Grassley of Iowa and Susan Collins of Maine, called on the president to provide the opinions to the Senate intelligence and judiciary committees so lawmakers can determine whether "the president's power to deliberately kill American citizens is subject to appropriate limitations and safeguards."