Rep. Rogers defends drones, says program has ‘plenty of oversight’

Remarks begin at 1:10 mark.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) on Sunday defended the administration’s use of armed drone strikes, saying there was “plenty of oversight.”


“Monthly I have my committee go to the CIA to review them. I as chairman review every single air strike we use in the war on terror, both on the civilian and the military side when it comes to terrorist strikes,” said Rogers on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” There’s plenty of oversight here. 

Rogers said that many aspects of the government’s drone program had been misrepresented in the media, in particular claims that there was a “kill list” of Americans linked to al Qaeda. 

“There’s not some American list somewhere overseas for targeting - that does not exist,” said the chairman. “I think there’s been some sensationalism, this is a serious matter, but I do think the oversight rules have been consistent.”

Rogers’s comments come amid growing congressional scruntity of the White House use of drone strikes to target terrorists abroad, including American citizens. Lawmakers from both parties have raised questions about the legality of targeting U.S. citizens and the collateral damage from civilian deaths.

A Justice Department white paper, leaked last week, explained the legal rationale for strikes on citizens, but lawmakers are demanding the actual legal memos. The White House briefed lawmakers on the drone strikes last week before a contentious hearing for top counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, who has been nominated for CIA Director.

But many lawmakers are demanding more information and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) intend to hold hearings on establishing new federal courts to oversee the drone strikes.

Rogers said he believed the White House had been straight with lawmakers about their drone program, saying he had been kept in the loop going as far back as the Bush administration. 

Rogers said he “as chairman of the House Intelligence committee, even as a member, was aware and part of those discussions.”

“And now as chairman, even before they conducted that first air strike that took [Anwar] al-Awlaki… remember that this is the that was trying to kill a whole bunch of U.S. citizens over Detroit on Christmas Day. This guy’s a bad guy. Our options were limited, this was a tool that we could use to stop further terrorist attacks against American citizens. I supported it then,” he added.

Rogers defended the strike which killed al-Awlaki, an American citizen.

“If you join forces with the enemy, we’ve had a longstanding tradition in this country that that in and off itself you lose your constitutional protections,” he said.

Rogers was also asked to respond to former Vice President Dick Cheney’s comments Saturday that Obama had tapped a “second rate” national security team for his new term.

“We have first rate problems,” said Rogers in response. But he cautioned that Cheney’s comments “may be a little beyond where I’m going.”