WASHINGTON: Attorney General Eric Holder promised the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that the Obama administration will share more information with Congress and the American people about national security policies, particularly the government’s use of drone strikes.
Holder’s comments came at a hearing where both Democratic and Republican senators said they must have access to Justice Department memoranda that form the legal underpinning for precisely when the administration can use drone strikes to kill a suspected terrorist, even if the person is a U.S. citizen.
Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said the judiciary panel should have the legal opinions, some of which were provided recently to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and the Senate Intelligence Committee, which she chairs.
“I heard you and the president has heard you,” Holder said. The attorney general said he is confident that if the public had more information there would be greater comfort the administration is acting in conformity with the law.
Without elaborating, Holder said a number of steps are going to be taken and that he expects “the president will be talking about this.”
Fueling the senators’ questions about the use of military force was a March 4 letter that Holder wrote to Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who asked whether, in the administration’s view, the president has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil.
Holder wrote that the question was “entirely hypothetical” and “unlikely to occur,” but that it was possible to imagine circumstances in which it would be appropriate, such as during an attack like the one at Pearl Harbor or the ones on Sept. 11, 2001.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., praised the Obama administration for its use of drone strikes abroad and, as he has in the past, offered his view that the wartime authority Congress granted to use military force against al-Qaida extended to domestic soil. Holder indicated that he agreed with that proposition.
The New York Times contributed to this report.