Oregon Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden on Wednesday said he planned to aggressively question John Brennan, who President Barack Obama has nominated to replace outgoing Central Intelligence Agency chief Leon Panetta, over concerns that Brennan’s CIA targeted U.S. citizens suspected of being terrorists.
While stopping short of threatening a filibuster, Wyden said the fact that Brennan was the architect of counterterror policy for the president makes it imperative to get a full legal analysis of the targeting, telling Roll Call, the president was “practicing secret law.”
Wyden was part of a group of Democrat and Republican senators that sent the president a letter on Monday
asking him to provide Congress with “the secret legal opinions outlining your authority to authorize the killing of Americans in the course of counterterrorism operations.”
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“In our view, if individual Americans choose to take up arms against the United States as part of an opposing fighting force, there will clearly be circumstances in which the President has the authority to use lethal force against those Americans… It is vitally important, however, for Congress and the American public to have a full understanding of how the executive branch interprets the limits and boundaries of this authority,” the letter reads.
The letter goes on to ask the president to direct the Justice Department to provide Congress, and specifically the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, with legal opinions laying out the Executive Branch’s official understanding on the president’s authority to deliberately kill U.S. citizens.
“In your speech at the National Archives in May 2009, you stated that “Whenever we cannot release certain information to the public for valid national security reasons, I will insist that there is oversight of my actions by Congress and the courts,” the letter reads. “We applaud this principled commitment… and hope that you will help us obtain the documents we need to conduct the oversight that you have called for.”
In a statement issued Wednesday, Wyden promised to bring up the issue at Brennan’s confirmation hearing on Thursday.
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