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Senate committee approves John Brennan's nomination as CIA director

March 05, 2013|By Ken Dilanian and Michael A. Memoli
  • John Brennan, President Obama's nominee to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
John Brennan, President Obama's nominee to be director of the Central… (Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images )

WASHINGTON -- The Senate Intelligence Committee voted 12 to 3 on Tuesday to approve John Brennan's as the next CIA director, ending weeks of delay and setting the stage for the full Senate to vote on Brennan's nomination later this week.

The committee approved Brennan's nomination in a closed-door hearing after the White House belatedly agreed to give the House and Senate Intelligence committees access to classified Justice Department opinions that the Obama administration used to justify the targeted killing of American terror suspects overseas.

Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said some members had requested additional information from the administration on counter-terrorism efforts and the lethal attack by armed militants on a U.S. diplomatic compound and CIA base in Benghazi, Libya, last Sept. 11.

But Feinstein said the full Senate could vote on Brennan's nomination in "a short time."

"This is an agency that ... needs oversight, needs supervision, needs direction. And it needs a director," she said, noting the position has been vacant for five months. An acting director has served in that time.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he wants the full Senate to consider the nomination by week’s end.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) vowed to delay the vote until the White House assures him it does not have authority to conduct a targeted killing of an American within the United States. But Paul acknowledged he probably cannot find enough senators to support a filibuster, which requires 41 votes.

The battle is hardly over, however. Two senior Republicans, Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona, said they still want additional questions answered about the Benghazi raid, which killed four Americans.

“We’re being stonewalled," Graham said. "We’re being filibustered by this administration. And what I’m asking for is incredibly relevant to understand what actually happened in Benghazi to make sure we never do it again.”

McCain said he hadn't decided whether to try to delay a full Senate vote.

“I’m not threatening anything, I just think we deserve the answers," he said. "I assume that I’ll get the information. If I don’t get the information, then I’ll decide what I need to do."

A senior Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, said he still had concerns about the use of drone aircraft to carry out targeted killings of terror suspects, a practice that expanded dramatically during Brennan's last four years as President Obama's chief counter-terrorism advisor.

“The idea that this discussion is just wrapped up after we have a vote ... is not accurate,” Wyden said.

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