During last week’s confirmation hearing for CIA director nominee John Brennan, senators discussed the establishment of a federal court with jurisdiction over the president’s death-by-drone program.
As proposed by lawmakers, the so-called “drone court” would be tasked with approving the targeting (and, by extension, the assassination) of people on President Obama’s or the CIA’s respective kill lists.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said during Brennan’s hearing that she was considering “legislation to ensure that drone strikes are carried out in a manner consistent with our values, and the proposal to create an analogue of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to review the conduct of such strikes."
The plan was seconded by Senator Angus King (I-Maine) who said at Brennan’s hearing that he would support a drone court that would rule on requests by the executive branch. King posited that the drone court hearings would be carried out “in a confidential and top-secret way,” giving the White House the opportunity to “make the case that this American citizen is an enemy combatant.” He sees that process as “at least ... some check on the activities of the executive.”
Although certainly not one to recognize checks on the executive, the White House indicated on Friday that it would entertain any legislative proposal for the establishment of such a tribunal.
Reuters quotes an Obama administration official as saying, “The White House has been discussing various ways there could be independent review of counterterrorism actions for more than a year."
In a press release issued last Friday, Senator King announced that he had sent a letter to Senators Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), chairwoman and vice-chairman of the Intelligence Committee, to consider a bill creating the new court.
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