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WASHINGTON – Maine Sen. Angus King went on MSNBC Friday morning to discuss his concerns about the lack of oversight of White House decisions to use unmanned drones to kill U.S. citizens working with terrorists.

King called the use of drones "more humane" than past weapon systems because they can reduce the loss of innocent lives by precisely targeting a specific person or site. But the Maine independent said when it comes to targeting U.S. citizens suspected of aligning themselves with terrorist organizations operating overseas, King said he believes there need to be checks and balances in place.

Speaking on MSNBC's Morning Joe program, King reiterated his call for a court-like body to review potential strikes that have been planned out days or weeks in advance. King said, however, that nothing should interfere with the president's ability to conduct targeted strikes to respond to immediate threats.

"By and large, as I understand it, these strikes don’t happen in a matter of minutes. They are planned over a matter of days and weeks," King said. "In the case of targeting an American, I don’t see why they can’t go to a secret court, like the intelligence court that is already been set up, and get what amounts to a warrant."

King has suggested modeling the system on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which reviews federal agencies’ requests for warrants on suspects operating in the U.S.

King first raised his constitutional concerns during Thursday's Senate Intelligence Committee nomination hearing for John Brennan, who President Obama has picked to be the next CIA director. Brennan, who currently serves as the White House’s counterterrorism chief, repeatedly fielded questions from senators on Thursday about drone policy.

On Friday, King also said that drones are "a lot more civilized" than the more indiscriminate weapons of war from the past. He gave the examples of the Allied forces firebombing of Dresden, Germany, in World War II, which resulted in massive civilian casualties.

"I think there is just something creepy about drones . . . and people are uneasy about them," King said. "But if you put it in the context of 1,000 years of war, I think it’s actually a more humane weapon because it can be targeted to specific enemies and specific people."

 

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
Kevin can be reached at 317-6256 or kmiller@mainetoday.com

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