Sen. Paul threatens hold on Brennan over armed drone strikes

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Wednesday threatened to hold John Brennan's nomination for CIA director unless he receives more answers on the administration’s drone program.

“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 statement. "I will not allow a vote on this nomination until Mr. Brennan openly responds to the questions and concerns my colleagues and I share.

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"These issues must be discussed openly so that the American people can understand what constraints exist on the government’s power to use lethal force against its citizens," Paul continued. "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."

Brennan, Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, faced a contentious confirmation hearing last week, as lawmakers pressed him on the legality of using armed drone strikes against suspected terrorists, in particular American citizens.

The increased congressional scrutiny followed the leak of a Justice Department (DOJ) memo laying out the circumstances in which the administration would authorize a deadly drone strike on a U.S. citizen.

Lawmakers, though, have demanded that the DOJ share its actual legal memos justifying the targeting of Americans abroad.

The administration attempted to defuse congressional anger by providing a private briefing to lawmakers before Brennan’s hearing. Brennan also testified that the administration only authorizes lethal force as a “last resort to save lives.”

But the briefing and Brennan’s testimony did little to satisfy lawmakers. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) have said they will hold more hearings on the issue.

Feinstein last week also suggested creating a federal court to oversee and approve drone strikes, but Republicans quickly rebuffed the proposal.

“I think it is a terrible idea,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told The Hill.

Over the weekend Graham also said he would put a hold on Brennan's nomination as well as former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Obama’s nominee for Defense secretary, until the administration provides more details about its response to the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.


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