Obama administration silent over CIA drone base in Saudi Arabia as pressure builds on Brennan
London, Feb. 7 : The pressure on President Barack Obama's nominee for CIA director and the architect of the White House strategy on drones, John Brennan has intensified after revelations of a secret CIA drone base in Saudi Arabia.
The Obama administration and Saudi Arabia were silent over reports on Wednesday that the CIA is secretly using an air base in Saudi Arabia to conduct its controversial drone assassination campaign in neighbouring Yemen.
According to the Guardian, the reports revealed that the drones that killed the US-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and his son in September 2011, and Said al-Shehri, a senior al-Qaida commander who died from his injuries last month, were launched from the unnamed base.
A senior administration official told an international news agency that Obama has directed the justice department to provide congressional intelligence committees access to classified information providing the legal rationale for drone strikes against al-Qaida-linked American citizens, the report said.
Several lawmakers have pressed the White House for more information on how decisions are made to target US citizens abroad, it added.
The unclassified memo said that it is legal for the government to kill US citizens abroad if it believes they are senior al-Qaida leaders continually engaged in operations aimed at killing Americans.
The revelation about the Saudi air base is an embarrassment to the White House, which pressured the Washington Post and some other news organisations to suppress the information for 12 months on national security grounds, the report said.
The timing is also unfortunate for Obama because the killings of Awlaki and his son have contributed to demands in Congress for greater transparency by the White House over the legal basis for drone attacks on US citizens.
Senators are expected to question Brennan at his confirmation hearing on Thursday about the drones policy, and have pressed the White House to release the detailed legal opinion justifying the targeting of Americans.
According to the report, some Senators have also raised questions about civilian casualties and whether the drone attacks are a recruiting tool for the US's enemies.
The confirmation hearing is also expected to throw some light on the future use of drones, which Obama has rapidly expanded in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.
The revelation of the CIA drone base in Saudi Arabia was seized on by Iran, where state media highlighted the story, it added.