Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul announced Wednesday that he plans to place a hold on the nomination of John O. Brennan to run the CIA until he receives information related to the administration’s use of armed drones.
“I have asked Mr. Brennan if he believed that the President has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil, and my question remains unanswered,” Paul said in a written statement. “Before confirming Mr. Brennan as the head of the CIA, it must be apparent that he understands and will honor the protections provided to every American by the Constitution.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee was originally scheduled to vote Thursday on Brennan’s nomination, after the panel held a closed-door session Tuesday with the nominee. But Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Wednesday that the vote would be delayed over senators’ requests for a variety of information, including Office of Legal Counsel memos on drone strikes.
“Under committee rules, members of the committee have the ability to object to a vote on the nomination of Mr. Brennan to be the CIA director until after Thursday, so the vote will be delayed,” Feinstein said in a written statement. “In addition, members on both sides of the aisle have asked that certain information [related to the Sept. 11, 2012, Benghazi attack and to OLC opinions on the use of targeted killings] be provided to the committee. Mr. Brennan has made clear in two confirmation hearings that he will be a strong and capable CIA director, so I hope to schedule a vote on his nomination as soon as possible after the upcoming recess.”
Brennan’s hearing triggered a long-delayed debate over the Obama administration’s use of armed drones to target suspected terrorists, including U.S. citizens.
As the top White House counterterrorism adviser, Brennan is credited as the architect of President Barack Obama’s drone strategy, although drone strikes began under the George W. Bush administration.
Lawmakers have in recent weeks focused on obtaining more details about the legal rationale behind targeting Americans, including legal opinions that the administration has classified.
Obama recently told the Justice Department to give the two congressional Intelligence committees the access they had been seeking to the classified legal rationale for drone strikes against U.S. citizens assisting al-Qaida overseas.
But Paul is not on the Intelligence Committee, and senators on several other congressional panels have demanded access to those documents.