Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, today issued the following statement on the committee’s robust and ongoing oversight of counterterrorism targeted killings:
“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.”