Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Obama to Release Secret Drone Memos

Watch out for fireworks at Brennan's testimony tomorrow.

At the Los Angeles Times, "Obama agrees to release memos on Awlaki strike":
WASHINGTON — President Obama, who has championed lethal drone strikes as a major part of U.S. counter-terrorism efforts, bowed to pressure Wednesday and agreed to allow the Senate and House intelligence committees to review classified legal memos used to justify a drone strike against a U.S. citizen in Yemen in 2011.

Senators had demanded for months to see the Justice Department opinions that provided the White House legal authority to order the targeted killing of Anwar Awlaki, a New Mexico native who became an Al Qaeda leader.

Complaints by several Democrats over not receiving the documents had cast a shadow on the Senate confirmation hearing Thursday of John Brennan, the White House counter-terrorism advisor tapped to be CIA director.

An administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified material, described the decision to release the classified Office of Legal Counsel material as "part of the president's ongoing commitment to consult with Congress on national security matters."

"I think this is an encouraging first step," said Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who sits on the Intelligence Committee and was among those who had publicly complained about being denied access to the material. He said Americans must "understand the rules under which a president may make these consequential decisions."

Wyden said Obama had "assured me that all of the documents concerning the legal opinions on the targeted killing of Americans will immediately be made available" to the intelligence committees.

Brennan is likely to face questions about the drone strikes that he oversaw in the last four years.

In written answers to 40 pre-hearing questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee, Brennan said civilian casualties from CIA drone strikes had been "exceedingly rare," repeating language he used last April after published reports alleged numerous civilian casualties in Pakistan and Yemen.

Former U.S. officials say that, for a time, the intelligence community considered every military-age male killed in a CIA drone strike to have been a militant.

Brennan declined to explain how U.S. authorities conclude that a militant is "associated" with Al Qaeda or whether the threat he poses is sufficiently "imminent" to warrant being targeted for a missile strike.

Brennan said, without elaborating, that those determinations are made on a "case-by-case basis" by intelligence professionals.
Also at CNN, "BREAKING: Obama to hand over drone documents ahead of Brennan hearing." (At Memeorandum.)