WASHINGTON – The Senate confirmed John Brennan as director of the Central Intelligence Agency on Thursday by a 63-34 vote. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, D-Colo., both voted for the 25-year agency veteran.
The confirmation comes just days after the White House agreed to release memos on the legal foundation for intended killings of Americans alleged to pose a terrorist threat – a move prompted by requests for more information from several senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee, including Udall.
“For the Senate Intelligence Committee to fulfill its oversight responsibilities, we need full access to the documents that outline the legal basis for the lethal targeting of American citizens. We need to understand what the administration believes the limits on its authorities are,” Udall said in a news release. “After pushing the White House for more access, we have now gained the ability to review the administration’s legal rationale.”
Now, senators on the intelligence committee and committee staff members, will have continuous access to Office of the Legal Counsel opinions on targeted killings of Americans, according to Udall’s office.
Previously, members of the committee were allowed to view two of four memos briefly about a month ago, but without the aid of their staffers, according to Udall spokesman Mike Saccone.
“That fight per se was not about Brennan in the micro-sense,” Saccone said.
Rather, it was about “appropriate and vigorous” oversight of the executive branch by the legislative, he said.
“It’s congressional oversight, and its transparency, and it’s respecting the role that Congress plays,” Saccone said.
The committee’s 12-3 vote on Tuesday – Udall voted for Brennan by proxy, as he was out of town dealing with a family matter – moved Brennan’s nomination to the Senate floor, where it was met by a filibuster.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., spent nearly 13 hours in a talking filibuster that ended after midnight on Thursday, blocking the Senate from voting on Brennan.
Paul said he wanted to know if U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder believed the president has the power to kill noncombatant Americans on U.S. soil with drones. Holder responded with a brief letter Thursday, saying the president does not have that authority.