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Senate panel approves Brennan to head CIA

Mar. 5, 2013 - 07:05PM   |   Last Updated: Mar. 5, 2013 - 07:05PM  |  
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WASHINGTON The Senate Intelligence Committee voted 12-3 on Tuesday to approve John Brennan, President Obama's counterterrorism adviser, as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The full Senate still must vote to confirm him for the post.

Senators from both parties had held up the nomination of Brennan, a longtime former CIA official, so they could get more information about the administration's use of lethal drone attacks on terrorism suspects, including American citizens.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and the panel's chairwoman, said she scheduled the closed-session vote on Brennan after the White House agreed to supply the committee with classified Justice Department memos outlining the legal rationale for the drone strikes.

Feinstein said the release of the legal opinions should help ease confirmation for Brennan.

"I have reached an agreement with the White House to provide the committee access to all (Office of Legal Counsel) opinions related to the targeted killing of Americans in a way that allows members to fulfill their oversight responsibilities," Feinstein said in a statement. "I am pleased the administration has made this information available. It is important for the committee to do its work and will pave the way for the confirmation of John Brennan to be CIA director."

Feinstein would not name the three senators who voted against Brennan, but news reports identified the no votes as Republican Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Jim Risch of Idaho.

Senators said they could not exercise proper oversight without the documents. Brennan told the committee last month during his confirmation hearing that he would share more information with the panel if he was confirmed.

Other senators, such as Republicans John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, wanted more information about the administration's actions following the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday that the White House also has provided more internal correspondence on the attack to interested lawmakers.

Despite the concerns about the drone strikes and the threatened delay of the confirmation vote, Brennan was not expected to have difficulty getting through the full Senate. Last week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel weathered a contentious confirmation hearing and nomination fight to be approved 58-41.

Brennan spent 25 years at the CIA before moving in 2003 from his job as deputy executive director of the agency to run the Terrorist Threat Integration Center. He later worked as interim director of the center's successor organization, the National Counterterrorism Center.

When Bush's second term began in 2005, Brennan left government to work for a company that provides counterterror analysis to federal agencies. After Obama took office in 2009, Brennan returned to the federal payroll as the president's top counterterrorism adviser in the White House.

If confirmed by the full Senate, Brennan would replace Michael Morell, the CIA's deputy director who has been acting director since David Petraeus resigned in November after acknowledging an affair with his biographer.

Contributing: Associated Press

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