WASHINGTON: As the demand for a more transparent drone policy built up, US President Barack Obama on Thursday shared confidential documents detailing the strategy with US lawmakers.
Acting on his direction, the US Justice Department released the documents to the Senate and House intelligence committees, hours before the Senate panel started confirmation hearings for John Brennan, the president’s nominee for CIA director, who has managed the drone programme over the past four years.
The documents released on Thursday detail the administration’s legal justification for the strategy.
Mr Brennan, who is also the White House counter-terrorism adviser, told the Senate Intelligence Committee in a written response that he believed no further legislation was necessary to conduct these operations.
A 16-page draft of this document was recently leaked to NBC News, which released it on Monday.
Since it included justification for targeting US citizens as well, the policy paper has created a huge controversy in the United States.
The United States has conducted hundreds of drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas, killing both militants and civilians.
Alarmed by the deaths, Pakistan has been urging the United States to stop the strikes but the United States has rejected the demand.
The White House has said the strikes are both “legal and moral” and will continue.
But US lawmakers say that this argument does not apply to US citizens. They are also urging the administration not to ignore international laws while targeting citizens of other countries or conducting drone strikes into someone else’s territory.
The New York Times reported on Thursday that the pressure forced the Obama administration also to share with the lawmakers a detailed 2010 document, which justifies the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric who had joined Al Qaeda in Yemen. He was killed in a CIA drone strike in September 2011.
Also this week, a bipartisan group of 11 senators sent a letter to President Obama asking for more information about the legal justification for targeted killings, especially of Americans.