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11 Senators Press Obama for Justification on Drones

By Todd Beamon   |   Monday, 04 Feb 2013 09:38 PM

Eleven senators asked President Barack Obama on Monday to justify to lawmakers the use of armed drones other counterterrorism operations to kill American citizens.

“We ask that you direct the Justice Department to provide Congress, specifically the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, with any and all legal opinions that lay out the executive branch's official understanding of the President's authority to deliberately kill American citizens,” the three Republicans and eight Democrats wrote in a letter to Obama and posted on Politico.

“The executive branch's cooperation on this matter will help avoid an unnecessary confrontation that could affect the Senate's consideration of nominees for national security positions.”

The bipartisan group also said it might stall the nominations of John Brennan as head of the Central Intelligence Agency and former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska as Defense Secretary should Obama not provide the classified information.

The letter referred to a May 2009 speech in which the president appeared to support providing such information to Congress while withholding it from the public, Politico reports.

“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 or the courts," Obama said his speech at the National Archives, Politico reports.

Similar requests have been denied by the Justice Department and other governmental agencies. And a federal district court judge in New York last month spurned a Freedom of Information Act request for such information from The New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union, Politico reports.

The White House did not respond to immediate requests from Politico on the letter.

The document was signed by Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Mike Lee of Utah, and Susan Collins of Maine.

The Democratic senators endorsing the letter were Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Mark Udall of Colorado, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Mark Begich of Alaska, and Al Franken of Minnesota.

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