February 8, 2013

Collins and King question Brennan on uses of drones

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King both questioned Brennan on targeted killings.

Collins, a Republican, asked Brennan whether he agreed with some former military and intelligence officials who said the rising number of unmanned drone strikes may be breeding new militants.

Brennan replied that "we have to take that into account" but said, in many cases, local residents have welcomed the U.S. intervention as a way to rid their communities of the "cancer" of terrorist networks.

Collins said she heard from CIA officers who were concerned whether Brennan would be "the CIA's representative to the White House" or "the White House's representative to the CIA."

Brennan said with him the CIA would get a director who would "tell the policy makers and the congressional overseers what they need to hear."

King, meanwhile, focused on the potential use of drones to target American citizens working with terrorist groups overseas. King, an independent, said he understood that some strikes required prompt decisions. But in other cases, King suggested there should be an outside review process similar to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that reviews federal agencies' requests for warrants on suspects operating in the U.S.

"I understand that you can't have co-commanders in chief, but having the executive be the prosecutor, the judge, the jury and the executioner all in one is very contrary to the traditions and the laws of this country, particularly in situations where there is time" for review, King said.

Both Collins and King urged Brennan, if confirmed, to be forthcoming with the House and Senate intelligence committees.

"It's incredibly important for the CIA to be totally open with this committee," King said. "The reason is there is no one else watching."

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