WASHINGTON (AP) — Members of congressional intelligence panels are studying a top-secret memo that gives the White House rationale for drone strikes targeting al-Qaida operatives overseas.
The memo was provided just hours before President Barack Obama's choice to head the CIA faces a Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing. John Brennan helped manage the drone program.
The delivery of the document suggests that the White House is trying to clear obstacles to Obama's effort to put Brennan in the top spot at the CIA. Obama tried to put him there before, in 2009 -- but the effort ran into opposition amid charges that Brennan supported harsh interrogation techniques that were used while he was at the CIA.
This afternoon's hearing is expected to air details of some of the most controversial programs used in the covert war on al-Qaida, including the drone strikes and the interrogation methods.
The White House says it's making an "extraordinary accommodation" in letting lawmakers look at classified Justice Department legal advice on drone strikes against Americans working with al-Qaida.
Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon is still leaving open the possibility that he will try to block Brennan's nomination. But he tells NBC that turning over the document is a good first step.
214-a-11-(Jay Carney, White House press secretary, at news conference)-"our counterterrorism efforts"-White House press secretary Jay Carney says Obama welcomes public discussion on these issues. ((Longer version of cut in wrap)) (7 Feb 2013)
<<CUT *214 (02/07/13)>> 00:11 "our counterterrorism efforts"
213-a-10-(Jay Carney, White House press secretary, at news conference)-"are so important"-White House press secretary Jay Carney says the president is giving senators a look at a memo from the Office of Legal Counsel that lays out the rules guiding drone strikes that target American citizens. (7 Feb 2013)
<<CUT *213 (02/07/13)>> 00:10 "are so important"
GRAPHICSBANK: John Brennan headshot, as Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, Washington DC, on texture, lettering, JOHN BRENNAN, finished graphic (7 Feb 2013)
APPHOTO NYSB203: FILE - In this Oct. 29, 2010 file photo, Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan briefs reporters at the White House in Washington. Brennan, now President Barack Obama's nominee to be CIA director, withdrew from consideration for the job in 2008 amid criticism over the agency's use of harsh interrogation techniques, like waterboarding, against terrorist suspects. This time, in 2013, he's making it clear he strongly opposes such practices. Former and current U.S. intelligence officials say Brennan wasn't so vocal a decade ago. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File) (29 Oct 2010)
<<APPHOTO NYSB203 (10/29/10)>>