Obama's spy master confirmed after 13-hour Senate filibuster
By Arun Kumar, Washington, March 8 : President Barack Obama's nominee as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) received Senate approval after the White House clarified its drone policy satisfying a Republican senator who had held up the vote with a 13-hour filibuster.
John Brennan, Obama's top counter-terrorism adviser, who is considered the top architect of the White House policy of targeting terrorism suspects with unmanned aircraft or drones, was confirmed by the Senate Thursday by a 63-34 vote that crossed party lines.
The confirmation vote came after Republican Rand Paul forced the administration with a rare "talking filibuster" to clarify that it would not use aerial drones on US soil to kill American citizens suspected of terrorism. Paul ended his near 13-hour filibuster speech well past midnight last night, but allowed the Senate to proceed with the vote Thursday afternoon only after Attorney General Eric Holder wrote a three line letter to him saying the president had "no" such authority.
"It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: 'Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?' The answer to that question is no," Holder wrote.
After Paul said he was satisfied with Holder's response, 81 senators, including 28 Republicans voted to end the filibuster. Thirteen of these Republicans later also voted to confirm Brennan.
The drone issue also saw some Republican lawmakers, including 2008 presidential nominee John McCain criticising Paul for the filibuster, while liberals and Democrats praised him.
Earlier, the Obama administration agreed to provide members of the Senate Intelligence Committee with additional legal opinions related to the targeted killings of Americans who are involved in terror-related activities that threaten the US or its interests.
Obama administration's drone programme came under scrutiny after the killing of American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Sep 2011.
Brennan was grilled on the programme during confirmation hearings, along with his stance on "enhanced interrogation" methods like water-boarding that were used during the administration of former President George W. Bush after the Sep 11, 2011 terror attacks.
Brennan will replace acting CIA Director Michael Morell, a career intelligence officer, at the CIA. Morell had stepped in after Gen. David Petraeus resigned from his post as director in November amid revelations he had engaged in an extramarital affair with his biographer.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)