Brennan Hearing Expected to Spotlight Drone Attacks and Targeted Killings
Watch John Brennan's Senate confirmation hearing Thursday at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Just days before John Brennan was to appear before a Senate panel on his nomination as CIA director, a Justice Department memo was leaked that justified the killing of Americans with high-level links to al-Qaida. Under mounting pressure from Congress, the administration said Wednesday evening it would give lawmakers some classified legal documents outlining the thinking behind the decision.
Brennan likely will be asked about the memo, along with the administration's use of drones, by Senate Intelligence Committee members on Thursday. Brennan is currently President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser.
Photo of John Brennan by Alex Wong/Getty Images
The legality of killing Americans suspected of terrorism was first raised when a drone strike in Yemen killed U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was considered a top-level al-Qaida operations planner and recruiter.
The U.S. drone program, part of which is operated by the CIA, has ruffled feathers abroad, particularly in Pakistan where use of the unmanned aircraft to hit suspected terrorist hideouts is viewed as flouting the southern Asian country's sovereignty. Use of drones has vastly increased under the Obama administration.
Meanwhile, the unclassified Justice Department memo leaked this week said a lawful killing must meet three criteria: that the target poses an imminent threat of violence against the United States, that the individual's capture is infeasible and that the operation would abide by law of war principles.
Hina Shamsi from the ACLU's National Security Project said on Tuesday's NewsHour that the memo was particularly "chilling" for not requiring a specific plot or other evidence when determining if the person was an imminent threat.
But Matthew Waxman of Columbia Law School said the memo was as "careful and narrow" as it could be in situations that arise during the ongoing armed conflict with al-Qaida.
View their discussion here:
Council on Foreign Relations backgrounder: Targeted Killings
ProPublica's Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Drones
Bureau of Investigative Journalism's Covert Drone War
We'll have more on Brennan's confirmation hearing on Thursday's broadcast. View all of our World coverage and follow us on Twitter: