OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Senate sends Brennan to CIA

GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and John McCain (Ariz.) voted to confirm Brennan, after abandoning plans to block the nomination due to unanswered questions about last year’s terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. 

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On Thursday, both Republicans slammed Paul's filibuster as "ridiculous," arguing there would be no scenario in which U.S. drones would kill American citizens inside the United States. 

During his time at CIA, and later as White House counterterrorism chief, Brennan played a key policy role in ushering in the aggressive use of targeted killings of suspected terrorists via armed aerial drone strikes. 

The growing political pressure in Washington on the drone program prompted Brennan to turn down the CIA nomination in 2008, paving the way for then-Gen. David Petraeus to assume the post. Petraeus stepped down from CIA last year after admitting to an extramarital affair. 

McCain, Graham blast Paul’s filibuster: More than a dozen GOP senators may have joined Paul’s filibuster, but McCain and Graham were not pleased.

The defense hawks slammed Paul’s notion of U.S. citizens getting attacked by drones as “ridiculous,” and McCain said that some of his colleagues who joined Paul should “know better.”

“To infer that our government would drop a Hellfire missile on Jane Fonda brings the conversation to a ridiculous tone,” McCain said on the Senate floor, as he and Graham took part in a colloquy less than 12 hours after Paul had finished his near 13-hour filibuster.

The embrace of Paul’s stand by many Republicans — including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — raised new questions about the direction of the party’s foreign policy views, which were already been under scrutiny after budget hawks endorsed the sequester cuts.

McCain bristled at questions over whether support of the filibuster signified a shift in GOP foreign policy.

“I have no idea, nor do I care,” McCain said. “I could care less if my view is majority or minority — I know what’s right. I’ve been involved in national security for 60 years.”

Graham said that it did not signal any shift. He said his colleagues backed Paul “to stand up for the concept of a senator having a question answered.”

“I’ve got no problem with that. I don’t think they’re supporting the policy,” he said.

Levin announces retirement: Senate Armed Services chief Sen. Carl Levin is calling it quits after six terms on Capitol Hill. 

"I have decided not to run for reelection in 2014," the Michigan Democrat said in a statement Thursday afternoon. "This decision was extremely difficult because I love representing the people of Michigan in the U.S. Senate and fighting for the things that I believe are important to them."

The leadership hole on the Senate defense panel left by Levin's departure will result in another massive shakeup on a committee that is already experiencing a markedly partisan shift to the right. 

Sen. James Inhofe's (R-Okla.) rise to the No. 2 spot on the committee, combined with Tea Party stalwarts such as Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas.), has given the traditionally pragmatic panel a significant conservative tilt. 

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) is the next Democrat in line on the panel, and will likely assume the gavel when Levin steps down. But it remains to be seen if Reed will be able to manage the GOPers on the committee masterfully as Levin was able to during his tenure. 

Outside the committee's purview, Levin's retirement gives Republicans renewed hope at picking up the seat, and a slightly easier path to winning control of the Senate.

The GOP needs to net six seats for control, and while Levin would have been a lock for reelection — he's won every election since 1990 by double digits  — there's a chance Republicans could mount a serious push for the seat.

US captures bin Laden's son-in-law: Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, the son-in-law of deceased al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and a member of the group's inner circle, was captured by U.S. counterterrorism officials in Jordan on Thursday. 

Abu Ghaith, who was also the terror group's main spokesman, had been under Turkish custody before Anakra deported the terror suspect to Jordan, where he was intercepted by American counterterrorism officials there. 

He has been remanded into federal custody and is en route to a detention facility in New York City for interrogation after his arrest on Thursday. 

Bin Laden was killed in May 2011 during a U.S. special operations forces raid on his compound in Abottabad, Pakistan. 

It remains unclear which specific charged are being leveled against Abu Ghaith, but the Kuwaiti national will likely make an initial court appearance in New York sometime next week. 

Bin Laden's son-in-law is one of the few top al Qaeda leaders U.S. officials have taken into custody under the White House's increasingly aggressive counterterrorism campaign against al Qaeda and various factions of the radical Islamic terror group.  

That campaign has depended heavily on the use of targeted killings of suspected terrorists via armed drone strikes across the globe, particularly in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. 

The Obama administration has credited the use of armed drone strikes as playing a key role in dismantling al Qaeda's top leadership and quashing efforts by the groups to launch attacks against the United States and its allies.


In Case You Missed It: 

— Senate approves Brennan nomination

— Holder guarantees no drone strikes inside U.S.

— US issues new sanctions on North Korea

— McCain, Graham slam Paul filibuster


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