John Brennan confirmation hearing will focus on drones, enhanced interrogation


John Brennan


Saul Loeb

John Brennan, President Barack Obama's nominee to head the Central Intelligence Agency, will face Senate scrutiny Thursday during his afternoon confirmation hearing.

Brennan, who was Obama's former counter-intelligence chief, is expected to come under fire for his support of the controversial drone program as well as for his views on using torture during interrogation.

The drone program has drawn criticism from both progressive Democrats and from Republicans concerned that it may result in too much power concentrated in the hands of the presidency. Brennan's nomination, therefore, should draw a long hard look from both parties.

After a report by NBC News this week revealed a Justice Department white paper that argued it's legally sound for the White House to kill US citizens believed to be Al Qaeda operatives, the president directed the department to share the classified memo with congressional intelligence committees.

If Brennan moves from the White House to Langley, he'll become the "lead executive authority over all CIA drone strikes," explained Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, speaking to NBC News.

One of the biggest questions Brennan is expected to face includes whether the foreign policy costs of using drones — which have been linked to rising anti-American sentiment and increasing militancy — outweigh its benefits.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said during a briefing on Wednesday that, by using drones "far fewer civilians lose their lives in an effort to go after senior leadership in Al Qaeda" than a large-scale war would involve.

Brennan is also likely to face the question of whether the current drone policy means that Obama would prefer for terrorists to be killed, rather than capturing them and putting them on trial.

Time Magazine speculated that other questions posed at the hearing could involve the future of US involvement in Syria, the intelligence gap in North Korea, and whether the CIA will focus on strategic competition in China.

Follow our LIVE BLOG for updates on the hearing:

John Brennan CIA confirmation hearing to highlight drone strikes, torture, targeted killings (LIVE BLOG)