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Brennan Could Be in for Rough Ride at Confirmation Hearing

Wyden said Tuesday he would ask several questions about drones that a recently disclosed Justice Department white paper about the targeted killing policy does not answer.

“The Justice Department memo that was made public yesterday touches on a number of important issues, but it leaves many of the most important questions about the President’s lethal authorities unanswered,” Wyden said. “Questions like ‘how much evidence does the president need to decide that a particular American is part of a terrorist group?,’ ‘does the president have to provide individual Americans with the opportunity to surrender?’ and ‘can the president order intelligence agencies or the military to kill an American who is inside the United States?’ need to be asked and answered in a way that is consistent with American laws and American values.”

Wyden, Udall and Collins all signed a letter this week to the president asking for the Office of Legal Counsel memos pertaining to the drone strike program, in which Brennan has played a leading role.

Coats, who said he was undecided on Brennan and has some issues that will have to be discussed in a closed hearing, had a “positive” meeting with Brennan one on one.

“The biggest issue I’ve had is this whole question of leaks. We had a whole series of these in the spring and the summer, and I want to be sure we have his full 100 percent positive support to do everything possible to keep this from happening,” Coats said.

That’s a concern shared by Rubio.

“We have a process for nominations, and Senator Rubio won’t prejudge the nominees,” said his spokeswoman, Brooke Sammon. “The national security leaks during President Obama’s first term were worrisome and should be a topic for Mr. Brennan’s nomination hearing. As a member of the Intelligence Committee, Sen. Rubio looks forward to engaging Mr. Brennan during this process.”

A number of committee members, including the panel’s vice chairman, Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said this week that they will not comment on Brennan’s nomination at all until the hearing, although Chambliss has said he has unspecified concerns about Obama’s pick.

Udall, who was upset after his meeting with Brennan that the nominee had not yet read the Intelligence Committee’s report on interrogation practices, said his first opportunity to discuss the issue again with Brennan is Thursday’s hearing. “It’s important,” Udall said. “I’m looking forward to him coming and telling us what he’s learned.”

Chris Anders, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said he has spoken to Republicans who also have been miffed at Brennan for refusing to answer questions dating from before his nomination. Given the concerns about Brennan from both Democrats and Republicans, some of which are shared, Anders said it could be a rocky hearing Thursday.

“It all adds up to a much more difficult nomination that the White House thought it would be,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a wild day for them.”

Jay Carney, White House spokesman, said Tuesday that the president believes Brennan will be confirmed.

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