Brennan defends drone strikes, even on Americans
CIA Director-designate John Brennan strongly defended anti-terror attacks by unmanned drones Thursday under close questioning at a protest-disrupted confirmation hearing. On a second controversial topic, he said that after reading a classified intelligence report on harsh interrogation techniques, he does not know if waterboarding has yielded useful information.
Despite what he called a public misimpression, Brennan told the Senate Intelligence Committee that drone strikes are used only against targets planning to carry out attacks against the United States, never as retribution for an earlier one. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he declared.
Referring to one American citizen killed by a drone in Yemen in 2011, he said the man, Anwar al-Awlaki, had ties to at least three attacks planned or carried out on U.S. soil. They included the Fort Hood, Texas, shooting that claimed 13 lives in 2009, a failed attempt to down a Detroit-bound airliner the same year and a thwarted plot to bomb cargo planes in 2010.
“He was intimately involved in activities to kill innocent men women and children, mostly Americans,” Brennan said.
In a sign that the hearing had focused intense scrutiny on the drone program, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told reporters after the hearing that she thinks it may be time to lift the secrecy off the program so that U.S. officials can acknowledge the strikes and correct what she said were exaggerated reports of civilian casualties.
Feinstein said she and a number of other senators are considering writing legislation to set up a special court system to regulate drone strikes, similar to the one that signs off on government surveillance in espionage and terror cases.