In an e-mail sent out to reporters on Wednesday, as reported by Josh Gerstein of Politico, Senate Select Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein has demanded all nine Office of Legal Council (OLC) documents on the Obama administration's justification of its drone targeted- assassination program, plus any other relevant documents, and has also demanded that appropriate staff members have access to the documents.
In her statement, she asserts that the committee has conducted vigorous oversight of the drone targeted killings; however, since 2010 the committee has requested the above doctrines, and its requests had gone completely unfulfilled by the Obama administration until now, nearly three years later, at which point 2 of 9 documents have been provided, while members of the staff of the committee have been denied the ability to review the documents provided.
The full text of Feinstein's statement follows:
"The administration has publicly described — including now in an unclassified white paper — the legality and boundaries of targeted killing of terrorists, though details remain classified. The secrecy of the program has made it difficult to detail the robust oversight conducted by the Intelligence Committee of counterterrorism targeted killings, but I am pleased to outline some of that oversight now.
"The committee has devoted significant time and attention to targeted killings by drones. The committee receives notifications with key details of each strike shortly after it occurs, and the committee holds regular briefings and hearings on these operations — reviewing the strikes, examining their effectiveness as a counterterrorism tool, verifying the care taken to avoid deaths to non-combatants and understanding the intelligence collection and analysis that underpins these operations.
"In addition, the committee staff has held 35 monthly, in-depth oversight meetings with government officials to review strike records (including video footage) and question every aspect of the program.
"Since 2010 the committee has asked for copies of all the legal opinions written by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) at the Department of Justice on targeted killing. I have sent three letters, each joined by Vice Chairman Kit Bond or Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss, requesting these opinions.
"In 2012, the committee included a legislative provision in its annual authorization bill to require the executive branch to provide OLC opinions. Unfortunately that provision was removed prior to final passage of the bill. Until last week, the committee had been provided access to only two of the nine OLC opinions that we believe to exist on targeted killings.
"Last week, senators on the committee were finally allowed to review two OLC opinions on the legal authority to strike U.S. citizens. We have reiterated our request for all nine OLC opinions and any other relevant documents in order to fully evaluate the executive branch's legal reasoning, and to broaden access to the opinions to appropriate members of the committee staff."
This statement indicates that there has been a bipartisan effort to obtain these documents for over three years and that the committee's efforts to obtain the documents legislatively in 2012 were also sabotaged. It should also be noted that Feinstein's effort to remove indefinite detention provisions from the NDAA were also sabotaged.
As to her claim that the committee has exercised robust oversight, the fact that the committee has been allowed to review assassinations shortly after they occurred, but never be informed of the grounds for the assassination, can hardly be called robust oversight.
Senator Feinstein provided this information one day after a classified hearing held by the committee with Obama's nominee to be Director of the CIA, John Brennan. Today, Reuters reported that the Senate Intelligence Committee is likely to delay a vote on Brennan's confirmation until the last week of February.