The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has postponed a vote on the nomination of White House terrorism adviser John O. Brennan to be CIA director after seeing emails that showed his role in drafting controversial “talking points” about the deadly Sept. 11 terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Libya last year.
Congressional officials told The Washington Times that committee Chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein had planned to hold a vote as soon as Thursday.
But the California Democrat said this week that there would be no vote on the nomination before March 7.
“The situation is fluid,” said Mrs. Feinstein’s spokesman, Brian Weiss, adding that no date had been set for a vote.
White House officials told The Times on Wednesday that the emails provided to committee members, which will be shared this week with members of the House intelligence committee, show that Mr. Brennan played a minor role in drafting the talking points and none at all in making the changes that have so infuriated Republicans.
Mr. Brennan “suggested two minor edits that were stylistic,” White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said. “Neither edit made its way into the CIA’s final product.”
Many in the U.S. intelligence community were convinced within hours that the military-style assault on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi was probably the work of al Qaeda-linked terrorists. But the talking points — prepared three days after the event — did not call the attack an act of terrorism and removed a reference to the attackers’ al Qaeda link.
Officials have said the changes were made within the intelligence community to protect sources and methods because the evidence of the connection to al Qaeda came from highly classified electronic eavesdropping.
Republicans have contended that the al Qaeda link was deleted because it undermined President Obama’s election campaign message that the terrorist network was decimated.
Several Republican senators have said they would block Mr. Brennan’s confirmation if they were not allowed to see documents showing exactly how changes were made to the talking points. Two of the most vocal critics, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, are not members of the intelligence committee.
It could not be learned Wednesday afternoon whether arrangements would be made for nonmembers of the committee to view the documents.
The administration hopes that making the documents available will clear a path for Mr. Brennan to be confirmed.
“The confirmation process should be about the nominees and their ability to do the jobs they’re nominated for,” said Ms. Hayden, the White House spokeswoman.
“As the confirmation hearings clearly showed, John Brennan is extraordinarily qualified to head the CIA, and the president needs him in place now. We face enormous national security and intelligence challenges across the globe, and to hold up these nominees for unrelated reasons is not in our national security interests.”
Other committee members are concerned about the administration’s legal justification for the targeted killing of suspected terrorists, including Americans.
Democrats on the committee have said they want to see legal opinions on what grounds the administration asserts the right to kill U.S. citizens without charge or trial if they are leaders of al Qaeda and cannot be captured.
The administration has shared four opinions with committee members but not their staffs, and senators want to see another seven.