By Carlo Muñoz - 02/14/13 12:38 AM EST
Senate Intelligence Committee chief Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has decided to postpone the panel's confirmation vote on White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan's nomination to become CIA chief.
"[John] 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," according to Feinstein.
The California Democrat ordered the delay after committee members requested the White House provide more information on its armed drone program and last September's terrorist attack at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
According to a congressional source, Feinstein did not request further details on the Benghazi attack, which left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
However, she did ask for more information pertaining to the Justice Department's classified legal justifications on the use of armed drones against terror suspects, the source said.
That said, Feinstein is not planning any further delays to the Brennan nomination, based on that request, the source added.
Prior to Wednesday's decision, Brennan had been expected to clear the committee and be confirmed by the Senate despite the controversy over the Obama administration's drone strike program on American terrorist suspects overseas.
On Tuesday, Brennan testified during a classified session before Feinstein's panel on efforts to thwart al Qaeda and its affiliates across the globe, particularly the group's increasing presence in North and West Africa.
The Tuesday hearing was seemingly the final hurdle in the White House's plan to have Brennan become the nation's top spy.
Feinstein and other Senate panel members grilled Brennan last Thursday over his role in the Obama administration's aggressive use of armed drones against suspected terrorists during the open session of the presumptive CIA chief's confirmation hearing.
Brennan gave a forceful defense of the drone program, which a Department of Justice (DOJ) white paper leaked last week said was legal even when used to kill U.S. citizens who are suspected of terrorism.
The white paper's release set off a firestorm of controversy over the program on Capitol Hill. Threats of a possible filibuster against the Brennan nomination by panel member Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) ultimately forced President Obama to release the classified DOJ memos that provided the basis of the white paper.
While the classified documents were only distributed to members of Feinstein's committee, the white paper also spawned talk of granting authority to a new federal court to oversee the possible use of armed drones against Americans.
Patterned after the intelligence oversight responsibilities under the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA), the new authority would provide a much-needed legal check on the administration's authority to execute armed drone strikes, the California Democrat said.
But on Wednesday, Senate Republicans lambasted the idea, arguing the move would be a dangerous intrusion on presidential power.
“I think it is a terrible idea,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told The Hill on Tuesday. A new FISA-like court would be “the biggest intrusion ... in the history of [this] country” on the president’s authority as commander in chief, Graham said at the time.