ACLU: Senators Should Use Brennan Hearing To Probe Targeted Killings

Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee should use Thursday’s confirmation hearing of John Brennan to be director of the CIA as a means to get more detailed information on the Obama administration’s policies of targeted killings of suspected terrorists, a leading civil liberties group urges.

These issues, raised anew by the leak of a government white paper, are on top of the longstanding concerns about what role Brennan may have played in torture, extraordinary rendition, and secret prisons during his tenure at the CIA, according to a top official at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The issue has become explosive on the eve of Brennan’s hearing with the leak of a White House paper on its policies to allow targeted killings of U.S. citizens. Brennan had a long career at the CIA, even serving at one point as briefer to President Bill Clinton and had involvement in the Bush administration’s policy to torture those suspected of terrorism.

“No one should be satisfied with a 16-page summary white paper instead of the 50-plus page original Justice Department opinion. The senators should ask John Brennan what is in the more than 30 missing pages of analysis – which was apparently significant enough that the Obama administration went to the trouble of writing a new shorter memo instead of simply releasing the original memo,” says ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Christopher Anders. “Brennan has been something of a Forrest Gump of toxic national security policies, having been in the room when everything from torture to the killing of an American citizen was being debated. Senators should not be legislating in the dark, and they should not vote on his nomination until all Americans know whether the decisions Brennan made at CIA headquarters and in his White House office comply with our laws and uphold basic American values.”

Brennan, the White House adviser on homeland security and counterterrorism, has repeatedly been described in the press as an architect of the Obama administration’s expansive killing program. This week NBC News released a Justice Department white paper that summarizes a secret memo outlining the government’s framework for targeting and killing American citizens suspected of terrorism far from any battlefield and without due process, judicial review, or any “clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”

The ACLU says the white paper is a chilling document that demands a complete explanation from Brennan, as well as the full release of the original Office of Legal Counsel memo supporting the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen.

“The Senate has to get to the bottom of the killing program. Under Brennan’s leadership, the killing program has left in its wake three dead American citizens, thousands of others dead across two continents, and an abandonment of the rule of law. The widespread killing of people far from any battlefield, based only on the orders of a high-level official, not only endangers American values – it creates a more dangerous world,” says Anders.

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