Obama to Give Congress Classified Drone Info

White House to hand over rationale on when it's OK to target Americans

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Feb 6, 2013 6:59 PM CST

(Newser) – President Obama has directed the Justice Department to give Congress' intelligence committees access to classified legal advice providing the government's rationale for drone strikes against American citizens working with al-Qaeda abroad, a senior administration official said today. A drumbeat of demands to see the document has swelled on Capitol Hill in recent days as the Senate Intelligence Committee prepares to hold a confirmation hearing for John Brennan, who helped manage the drone program, to be CIA director.

Those demands were only intensified by the leak this week of an unclassified "white paper" on how decisions are made to target US citizens abroad that the Justice Department confidentially sent to key lawmakers last year. The unclassified memo says it is legal for the government to kill American citizens abroad if it believes they are senior al-Qaeda leaders whose aim is to kill Americans, even if there is no evidence of a specific imminent attack. Eleven senators, including Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon, called on Obama to provide lawmakers "any and all legal opinions" that outline the president's authority to use legal force against Americans.

This Jan. 7 file photo shows President Obama and his choice for CIA chief, John Brennan, right. At left is Chuck Hagel.
This Jan. 7 file photo shows President Obama and his choice for CIA chief, John Brennan, right. At left is Chuck Hagel.   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
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