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Brennan CIA nomination clears panel. What did White House have to divulge?

The nomination of John Brennan to head the CIA had languished in the Senate Intelligence Committee. Panel members were keen to know about the legal defense of the secret US drone program.

By Staff Writer / March 5, 2013

CIA Director nominee John Brennan testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, in February.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP/File

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Washington

The Senate Intelligence Committee voted 12 to 3 Tuesday in a closed-door meeting to approve John Brennan’s nomination as director of the CIA. The Brennan nomination now moves to the Senate floor, where Democrats believe they have enough votes to win his confirmation.

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Washington Editor

Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.

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The Brennan pick had been stuck in the panel for days. So here’s our question: What happened? Specifically, how much information on the secret US drone program was the White House forced to disclose to committee members to get the nomination moving?

The short answer here is that it appears the administration produced some, but far from all, of the documents it has been withholding from lawmakers on this issue. Human rights organizations on Tuesday continued to charge that the White House had not released nearly enough information about the basis for its belief that it is legal for the US to target terror suspects with armed unmanned aircraft.

President Obama must do more to prove that his administration is serious about human rights,” Zeke Johnson, director of Amnesty International USA’s Security with Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement issued just prior to the Brennan vote.

Let’s step back and explain the situation more fully. In recent days the key barrier to Brennan’s impending promotion has been the desire by many Intelligence Committee members for expanded access to the opinions drafted by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) at the Justice Department that justify targeted killings of terror suspects in far corners of the world.

Early on Tuesday the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) of California, announced that she and the White House had struck a deal.

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