- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 6, 2013

With the fate of his pick to head the CIA in danger, President Obama reversed course Wednesday night and released to Congress the classified legal advice that the Justice Department has given the White House on using drones to execute American citizens in the war on terrorism.

The about-face came less than a day before John O. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s homeland security adviser and his pick to be CIA director, was to face a Senate confirmation hearing, and hours after Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, threatened to hold up the appointment unless more information was forthcoming.

A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Mr. Obama would send lawmakers the classified rationales as part of his “commitment to consult with Congress on national security matters.”

The official added Wednesday evening that Mr. Obama had directed the Justice Department to provide the Senate and House intelligence committees with the classified advice from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Senate Democrats huddled with Mr. Obama in Annapolis on Wednesday to talk about the year’s agenda.

Outside of the retreat, Mr. Wyden threatened to “pull out all the stops” in his effort to get access to the legal analysis, including delaying Mr. Brennan’s nomination.

“I want it understood that because this is such a central [issue], you have an individual with enormous influence who is really the architect of the counterterror policy in the Obama administration, that I am going to pull out all the stops to get the actual legal analysis because without it, in effect, the administration is practicing secret law,” Mr. Wyden told the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.

Mr. Wyden stopped short of saying he would filibuster the nomination, only that he planned to bring it up during Mr. Brennan’s confirmation hearing Thursday before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the first round in what is expected to be an intense series of questioning by lawmakers.

On Wednesday evening, Mr. Wyden told The Associated Press that Mr. Obama had called him to give him the news of the administration’s decision to release the legal opinion.

“This is an encouraging first step,” he said. “There is now an opportunity to build on it.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and Senate intelligence committee chairwoman, said she expected to receive the information Thursday morning, just hours before Mr. Brennan’s hearing.

The 16-page legal memo justifying drone attacks was obtained and published by NBC News earlier this week, and has reignited a heated debate over U.S. policy in the war on terrorism.

Several lawmakers signaled that they would use Mr. Brennan’s hearing before the Senate intelligence committee as a chance to delve into the justification.

The memo says the U.S. can carry out targeted drone executions even when the U.S. doesn’t have “clear evidence that a specific attack in U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”

The White House this week defended the drone program as “legal,” “ethical” and “wise.”

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