By CNN's Kevin Liptak
The number of innocent victims of drone strikes remains "extremely small" and doesn't outweigh the benefits of using drones to take out al Qaeda operatives, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates argued Sunday.
But the former Pentagon chief said a better system of checks and balances could be constructive when the unmanned aerial devices are used to target Americans, aligning himself with lawmakers concerned about unfettered power in the hands of the president.
Gates served under George W. Bush during the beginnings of the drone program and later under President Barack Obama as the use of drones spiked. Recently lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, have forcefully questioned the use and oversight of the lethal devices.
By Lesa Jansen
The Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday morning will receive a classified document that seeks to justify the administration's policy of targeting Americans overseas via drone attacks, chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said late Wednesday.
"I am pleased that the president has agreed to provide the Intelligence Committee with access to the OLC (Office of Legal Counsel) opinion regarding the use of lethal force in counterterrorism operations," the California Democrat said in a statement.
"It is critical for the committee's oversight function to fully understand the legal basis for all intelligence and counterterrorism operations."
The announcement came shortly after an administration official said that President Barack Obama had yielded to demands that he turn over to Congress the classified Justice Department legal advice that seeks to justify the policy.FULL STORY
By Barbara Starr and Pam Benson
As President Barack Obama's pick for CIA director heads to Capitol Hill Thursday for his confirmation hearing, some in the president's own party are threatening to hold up John Brennan's nomination.
Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden told reporters he would "pull out all the stops" to get answers about the legality of targeting Americans involved with al Qaeda overseas. Wyden was not satisfied with a confidential Justice Department memo that was sent to key congressional committees last year but only became public on Tuesday.
The 16-page white paper indicated the U.S. government could use lethal force against an American citizen overseas if the person is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or one of its affiliates and an attack is imminent. But it was a policy paper rather than the official legal document, which the American Civil Liberties Union says is 50 pages long.
By Pam Benson
A Justice Department memo determined the U.S. government can use lethal force against an American citizen overseas if the person is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or one of its affiliates.
The paper provides insights into the Obama administration's policy of targeted killings carried out by the use of drone strikes against suspected terrorists. Several of those strikes have killed Americans, notably Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni American who had been connected to plots against the United States but never charged with a crime. Awlaki died in a drone attack in September 2011 in Yemen.
The 16-page white paper - titled "Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qaida or an Associated Force" - is a policy paper rather than an official legal document.
NBC News first reported on the contents of the memo, which was given to members of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees last June. A congressional source verified the document's legitimacy to CNN.
By Adam Aigner-Treworgy
Nearly three weeks after nominating chief White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency, President Barack Obama on Friday announced a replacement.
Lisa Monaco will serve as the new assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism and deputy national security adviser - a long title for a job that up to this point has been filled by the president's closest adviser in the fight against foreign and domestic terrorism.
Monaco comes from the Justice Department, where she has served as assistant attorney general for national security since July 2011. Prior to that assignment, Monaco served as deputy attorney general, chief of staff to FBI Director Robert Mueller, special counsel at the FBI, and during an earlier stint at the Justice Department adviser to Attorney General Janet Reno on national security issues.
A graduate of Harvard University and University of Chicago Law School - where Obama was a professor before entering politics - Monaco spent many years as a prosecutor. FULL POST
By Hakim Almasmari
A U.S. drone strike on a vehicle just outside the capital of Sanaa killed six suspected al-Qaeda militants Wednesday night, three Yemeni Defense Ministry officials told CNN.
The strike took place in Al-Masna'a village of Khawlan district, 35 kilometers southeast of the capital. Three of the killed were senior members of al Qaeda, two of whom were Saudi nationals, the officials said.
Security teams were deployed to the scene, one of the officials said.
"Yemen needs stability and these militants must be killed if Yemen has a chance to stabilize, " said a Defense Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to media.FULL STORY
President Barack Obama said Monday he will nominate former Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican, to become Defense Secretary and tapped his chief counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency. CNN's Barbara Starr reports on the message Obama is sending about foreign policy in his second term with these two top national security post nominations.
By Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst, and Jennifer Rowland, Special to CNN
President Barack Obama has nominated his top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, to be the next director of the CIA.
If there is an emerging Obama doctrine to deal with the threat from al Qaeda and its allies, it is clearly a rejection of the use of conventional military forces and a growing reliance instead on the use of drones and U.S. Special Operations Forces - and Brennan has been central to Obama's policy.
One of Brennan's most significant legacies in the four years he has been the president's principal adviser on terrorism is the American drone campaign against al Qaeda and its allies in countries such as Pakistan and Yemen - one that has shifted focus significantly in the past year or so.
The steadily increasing rate of drone strikes in Yemen over the past two years shows that the CIA's drone war - rather than declining – is shifting from one part of the world to another.
Brennan has been the key architect of this policy. The Arabic-speaking Brennan, who was once CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia, in a sense became the "case officer" for the Yemen "account," traveling to Yemen seven times since al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula sent the so-called underwear bomber to try and bring down Northwest Flight 235 over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.FULL STORY
By Shaan Khan
A suspected U.S. drone strike killed 17 people and wounded three Sunday in Pakistan's volatile tribal region, Pakistani intelligence officials said.
The strike occurred in Babar Ziarat, which borders the Pakistani provinces of North and South Waziristan, near the Afghan border, the officials said.
Those killed and injured in the strike were believed to be militants, the officials said.
The attack follows two suspected U.S. drone strikes in the same area last week that killed 15 people, including a Taliban commander with ties to the Pakistani military.FULL STORY
By Shaan Khan
Two suspected U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan's volatile tribal region left 15 people dead on Thursday, Pakistani intelligence officials said.
Among the 11 killed in one strike in the province of South Waziristan was a Taliban commander named Mullah Nazir, also known as Maulvi Nazir Wazir, the officials said.
The drone fired two missiles in the Sarkanda area of Birmil, killing Nazir, the officials said.FULL STORY