Conflict & Justice

Obama orders classified info on drone killings of US citizens overseas turned over to Congress

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An MQ-9 Reaper flies by on a training mission Aug. 8, 2007 at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada.

Credit:

Ethan Miller

Classified Justice Department legal advice seeking to justify the targeted killing of American citizens overseas by drones may be turned over to Congress lawmakers.

A White House official told NBC late Wednesday:

"Today, as part of the president's ongoing commitment to consult with Congress on national security matters, the president directed the Department of Justice to provide the congressional Intelligence committees access to classified Office of Legal Counsel advice related to the subject of the Department of Justice White Paper."

The Washington Post said Obama had considered the move in response to pressure from Republican lawmakers.

The Post noted that the apparent change of heart came on the eve of John O. Brennan’s confirmation hearing as Obama’s next CIA director.

Senate Democrats and Republicans, including several on the Intelligence Committee, have threatened a “confrontation” during the hearing if the administration does not yield.

The move represented a reversal by the Obama administration, which previously would not even confirm such advice — in the form of a white paper — existed.

Earlier Wednesday, the Associated Press cited White House spokesman Jay Carney as saying that President Barack Obama was deliberating how to balance the nation's security needs with its values.

"He thinks that it is legitimate to ask questions about how we prosecute the war against Al Qaeda."

According to CNN, the 16-page white paper — titled "Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a US Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qaida or an Associated Force" — is a policy paper rather than an official legal document.