Brennan to face questions on interrogations, drones and leaks

Thu Feb 7, 2013 3:55am EST
 

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's nominee to head the CIA, John Brennan, is expected to face tough questioning about leaks of sensitive information and U.S. spy activities from waterboarding to the use of drones when he appears at a Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday.

President Barack Obama, on the eve of the hearing, directed the Justice Department to provide congressional intelligence committees access to a classified opinion laying out the legal basis for armed drone strikes on U.S. citizens alleged to be involved in terrorist plots, an administration official said.

The White House had previously resisted taking this action, angering lawmakers including Senator Dianne Feinstein who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is holding the hearing.

In a written submission posted on the Senate Intelligence Committee's website on Wednesday, Brennan acknowledged for the first time that he had given voluntary interviews in connection with investigations into leaks that are being conducted by federal prosecutors in Baltimore and Washington.

Brennan said the investigations related to cyber warfare against Iran and a foiled bomb plot tied to al Qaeda's Yemen-based affiliate. Brennan said his lawyer had been told by prosecutors that he was "only a witness" in both investigations.

However, leaks are only one of the major issues about which intelligence committee members plan to question Brennan, a former CIA executive under President George W. Bush, who has become the steward of Obama's drone policies.

Congressional aides said much of the questioning is expected to focus on what Brennan knew about the Bush administration's use of harsh interrogation techniques on Islamic militant suspects captured and held, sometimes in secret CIA prisons, after the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001.

Human rights activists and many U.S. politicians, including Feinstein and Republican Senator John McCain, have condemned some of these interrogation techniques as torture.   Continued...

 
John Brennan, nominee for CIA Director, arrives at a meeting with Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on Capitol Hill in Washington January 31, 2013. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas