Today, in a letter to Senators Feinstein and Chambliss, the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence respectively, U.S. Senator Angus S. King, Jr. (I-Maine) requested that the Intelligence Committee consider legislation to provide an appropriate check on the executive branch's procedure for determining whether using lethal force in a foreign country against a U.S. citizen would be lawful.
The letter is a follow-up to Senator King's questioning yesterday of John O. Brennan, the President's nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency. During Mr. Brennan's confirmation hearing, Senator King suggested that Mr. Brennan, as well as the Intelligence Committee, consider creating an outside judicial process -- similar to the established FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court) court for electronic surveillance -- in order to provide an independent perspective in the case of a targeted-strike against an American citizen who is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda. In his response, Mr. Brennan indicated that he and the Administration would be open to a discussion about the Senator's proposal.
The full text of the letter is as follows:
"Dear Chairman Feinstein and Vice Chairman Chambliss:
Thank you for convening the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing yesterday to consider President Obama's nomination of John Brennan to be the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
During the hearing, I expressed concern about the dearth of appropriate checks and balances in developing the legal framework for the potential use of lethal force against a United States citizen. As part of my exchange with Mr. Brennan, I asked him how the Administration would react to the creation of an independent process -- similar to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court -- to provide an appropriate check on the executive branch's procedure for determining whether using lethal force in a foreign country against a U.S. citizen would be lawful. As you know, the FISA court consists of eleven federal judges, designated by the Chief Justice, who review electronic surveillance applications while maintaining appropriate security measures. Such a model may be useful as we consider the debate over targeted-strikes.
In response to my question, Mr. Brennan suggested that the Administration would be willing to engage in a discussion about this proposal and the appropriate balance between executive, legislative, and judicial branch responsibilities. Therefore, as the Committee begins preparing the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014, I ask that you work with me to contemplate legislative solutions, such as the creation of an outside judicial process similar to the FISA court, that might provide an independent perspective in the distinctive case of a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda.
Thank you for your consideration of this request. I look forward to working closely with you on these challenges as we begin the 113th Congress and I appreciate your continued efforts in furtherance of our national security."