A US senator has accused the Obama administration and the Justice Department for not being “adequately forthcoming” with information on the targeting and potential killing of Americans suspected of terrorism.
Ron Wyden, the Democratic senator from Oregon and a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote an open letter to John Brennan, the frontrunner for the post of Director of the CIA, asking Brennan to provide Congress with the secret legal opinions defining the government’s capacity to pursue and kill US citizens suspected of involvement in terrorist activities.
Members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence by law have access to classified legal opinions – but, Wyden writes, the Obama administration has denied him access to the opinions governing targeted assassinations of American citizens.
Wyden stressed that it is vital that the legal opinions guiding such conduct be distributed so that Congress and the public can “have full knowledge of how the executive branch understands the limits and boundaries of this authority,” the letter reads.
Wyden has tried for more than two years to gain access to the information, but has received either unsatisfactory responses or no response at all.
Now, he wants the information before Brennan’s confirmation hearing before the Senate. He has also asked for written assurance that future legal opinions related to the surveillance and assassination of American citizens be provided to the country's lawmakers.
“For the executive branch to claim that intelligence agencies have the authority to knowingly kill American citizens but refuse to provide Congress with any and all legal opinions that explain the executive branch’s understanding of this authority represents an alarming and indefensible assertion of executive prerogative,” Wyden's letter reads.
The senator has also requested a list of countries in which the intelligence community has used its “lethal counterterrorism authorities,” saying that the committee has the right to know “countries where United States intelligence agencies have killed or attempted to kill people. The fact that this request was denied reflects poorly on the Obama Administration’s commitment to cooperation with congressional oversight,” the letter continues.
He also asks Brennan to prepare to discuss a massive recent Senate Intelligence Report on the CIA's torture techniques and interrogation methods. Wyden seems to be particularly interested in hearing about why the CIA “repeatedly provided inaccurate information about its interrogation program to the White House, the Justice Department, and Congress.”
Brennan is chief counterterrorism advisor to President Obama, who nominated Brennan as his next director of the Central Intelligence Agency on January 7, 2013. Brennan now faces a Senate confirmation.