OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Brennan, Panetta on defensive over drones, Benghazi

Citing the agency's massively flawed interrogation and detention program, along with the CIA's unwillingness to disclose details of that program, Rockefeller warned that those mistakes could not be repeated in the armed drone program.

"There can never be that kind of situation again," he said.

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The program is at the center of a storm of controversy over the administration’s legal defense for using drones to kill U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism.

Senators have demanded more information from the administration on its legal rationale.

Brennan said the administration has been open to lawmakers' requests, and went one step further, saying if an individual, American or otherwise, is mistakenly targeted and killed as a suspected terrorist, CIA should publicly admit the mistake and the strike itself.

"As far as I am concerned ... the U.S. should [publicly] acknowledge it," he said.

The answer highlighted Brennan's calm and informed demeanor during the hearing as he faced off with senators.

"I think you are the right man for the job," Rockefeller told Brennan.

"The only guy for the job," he added.

Panetta, Dempsey defend Benghazi response: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey defended the Pentagon’s response to the Benghazi attack amid forceful questions from Republicans.

GOP senators pushed back against Panetta’s answer that there wasn’t enough time to respond militarily in Benghazi, questioning why there weren’t better preparations when U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens had raised concerns about not being able to withstand an attack.

Dempsey told Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that he had been informed of security concerns in Benghazi, but that no military force was sent there because a request was never made.

“It bothered me a great deal, but we never received a request,” Dempsey said.

Panetta testified, however, that on the anniversary of Sept. 11, the day the Benghazi attack occurred last year, there were 281 threats worldwide to diplomats and diplomatic facilities, and no specific credible threat in Benghazi.

Republican senators also focused in on the president’s role, with Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) accusing the administration of a “cover up” and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) asking why the president didn’t stay in regular conversation with Panetta and Dempsey that night.

Democrats meanwhile, asked as much about the effects of sequestration as they did about what happened in Benghazi.

Levin says documents won’t stop Hagel: Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) told reporters Thursday that the delay in his preferred timeline for a committee vote on Defense secretary nominee former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) was just a small speedbump, and would not do much to derail Hagel’s confirmation.

Levin opted not to hold a Thursday committee vote on Hagel’s confirmation amid Republican demands for additional information from Hagel’s paid speeches and the foreign funders of organizations he was affiliated with.

But he said the delay was mostly to give him time to respond to the Republican letter. Levin said that the requests for financial documents of outside organizations had never been asked of a nominee before, and that it should not start with Hagel.

“We’re not going to have two sets of rules one for Hagel one for all the other Defense secretaries we’ve had,” Levin told reporters Thursday.

Republican senators weren’t saying Thursday what they would do if they don’t get the documents they’ve requested. They could not stop a vote in committee, but could place a hold or filibuster his nomination on the floor, which would be unprecedented for a national security Cabinet-level nominee.

“Sen. Levin can say that some of this is out of bounds, and he may be right, some of this may be unprecedented. But this is a sort of an unprecedented nominee,” Graham said Thursday.

Levin said he would hold a committee vote “as soon as possible,” though he would not estimate a date, lamenting that some had turned his “hope” to hold one on Thursday into a scheduled vote, which did not occur.

Levin opposes GOP hawks sequester plan: Just like last year, the Republican plan to avoid the first year of sequestration through cuts in the federal workforce does not appear to be gaining traction on the other side of the aisle.

Levin told reporters that he opposed the plan from top Republicans on the House and Senate Armed Services Committee, which they unveiled in a joint press conference Wednesday.

The Republicans called their plan the least-painful way to avoid the first year of sequestration cuts, as the 10 percent cut to the federal workforce would be achieved through attrition.

But Levin said a plan to avoid sequester had to be balanced. He said he is working on tax reform that would close corporate loopholes that he hopes will be part of a plan coming from Senate Democrats.


In Case You Missed It:

— Feinstein clears protesters after interruptions

— CIA nominee defends drones

— Grassley wants wider release of DOJ drone memos

— Pentagon backed plan to arm Syrian rebels

— Fischer to oppose Hagel


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