The US Senate Intelligence Committee has approved John Brennan for the position of CIA director. Brennan must now receive approval from the Senate, where Republicans could stall the vote with questions about Benghazi.
Though Brennan garnered an easy 12-3 majority vote on Tuesday, putting him one step closer toward heading the Central Intelligence Agency, the decision did not come quickly. Members of the Senate panel refused to move forward in the nomination process until the White House gave them access to classified documents on drone strikes and security information surrounding the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last year.
Fewer than half of the 11 legal documents written by the Justice Department detailing the security operations had been delivered by last week, prompting the delayed vote.
By this week, the Obama administration provided enough information to satisfy the panel members. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein attributed the reluctance to hand over security information to a difference of opinion between the White House and Congress on the role of memos from the Justice Department.
"The White House tends to look at this as advice to the president, and therefore that advice is protected," she said. "But the committee viewed the opinions as the legal advice that underwrites possible actions by US intelligence agencies that Congress is charged with overseeing."
Lawmakers from both parties have raised concerns over unanswered questions surrounding the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012, which left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. The current administration's rapid increase of drone strikes in recent years also worried politicians when they learned that the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) had possibly been used to kill American citizens on foreign soil.
"Both of these issues had been addressed," Feinstein said.
One of the dissenting Republicans, Senator Saxby Chambliss, did not think Brennan was the best nominee to work with Congress, and so voted against him, according to the Associated Press. Nevertheless, he did not support the possibility of Senate Republican-backed delay tactics to stall the final vote.
"He'll probably be confirmed," Chambliss said.
Feinstein also expressed confidence that Brennan could get the 60 votes needed in the Senate, where Democrats hold 53 of the 100 seats, according to the news agency Reuters.
With over three decades in intelligence, Brennan currently serves as Obama's top counterterrorism adviser. Despite the controversy surrounding his proximity to policies concerning the implementation of waterboarding and other interrogation practices during the Bush administration, Senate Republicans refrained from questioning him as harshly as then Defense Secretary nominee, Chuck Hagel.
Nevertheless, the previous delay by Republican senators during Hagel's vote has raised concerns that they might attempt the strategy once more with Brennan in order to force the White House to disclose its actions immediately following the Benghazi attacks.
kms/jm (AP, Reuters)