Amid growing furor, among both Republicans and Democrats, over revelations about the Obama administration’s use of drones for targeted killings, a prominent Senate Democrat on Wednesday made a thinly veiled threat to filibuster John Brennan’s CIA director nomination.
During a retreat for Senate Democrats in Annapolis, Md. Wednesday, Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, threatened to “pull out all the stops” in his effort to get access to the administration’s legal analysis for targeted killings of U.S. citizens suspected of being terrorists.
Speaking to reporters outside the retreat, Mr. Wyden, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, made several references to Mr. Brennan’s nomination and his central role in crafting the counterterrorism policy in the Obama White House, as well as his concern about the secrecy governing the administration’s drone policy.
“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 counter terror 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,” he told the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.
Mr. Wyden stopped short of saying he would filibuster the nomination, saying only he planned to bring it up during Mr. Brennan’s confirmation hearing Thursday before the Senate intelligence panel, the first round in what is expected to be an intense series of grillings by lawmakers.
The White House has faced a firestorm of criticism of its drone policy this week after NBC News reported Monday that it had obtained a Justice Department white paper explainer on using drone strikes against U.S. citizens.
On Tuesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said that white paper was written by Justice Department officials and is not a public document.
“It did represent an effort, in our providing the information to the applicable members of Congress, to explain the legal concepts and legal theories [that] undergird the decisions that are being made,” he said.
President Obama, he said “is committed to working with Congress on these matters and to providing information to Congress, and that process continues.” When pressed further on Mr. Wyden’s comments, he said the administration would continue to consult with and provide information to “appropriate” members of Congress “on these weighty, important matters.”
“I think it’s important to note, and I should have said this yesterday, that when it comes to some of these matters, the information that is held — is kept secret for national security reasons, not to keep it from the American people but to keep it from those who plot daily and continually to do harm to the United States and do harm to the American people,” he said.