WASHINGTON — Uncomfortable with the Obama administration’s use of deadly drones, a growing number in Congress is looking to limit America’s authority to kill suspected terrorists, even U.S. citizens. The Democratic-led outcry was emboldened by the revelation in a newly surfaced Justice Department memo that shows drones can strike against a wider range of threats, with less evidence, than previously believed.
The drone program, which has been used to find and kill suspected terrorists, is expected to be a top topic of debate when the Senate Intelligence Committee grills John Brennan, the White House’s pick for CIA chief, Thursday.
The White House on Tuesday defended its lethal drone program by citing laws that some in Congress believed were appropriate in the years immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks but now think may be too broad.
“It has to be in the agenda of this Congress to reconsider the scope of action of drones and use of deadly force by the United States around the world because the original authorization of use of force, I think, is being strained to its limits,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said.
Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said Tuesday that “it deserves a serious look at how we make the decisions in government to take out, kill, eliminate, whatever word you want to use, not just American citizens but other citizens as well.”
Hoyer added: “We ought to carefully review our policies as a country.”
Earlier this week, a group of 11 Democratic and Republican senators urged President Barack Obama to release a classified Justice Department legal opinion justifying when U.S. counterterror mission can be used to kill American citizens abroad.
Without those documents, it’s impossible for Congress and the public to decide “whether this authority has been properly defined, and whether the president’s power to deliberately kill Americans is subject to appropriate limitations and safeguards,” the senators wrote.
Instead, members of Congress received an unclassified Justice Department memo, which falls short of giving the senators all the information they requested.