WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration has agreed to provide the Senate Intelligence Committee access to all opinions authored by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel regarding the targeted killing of suspected terrorists, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the committee's chairwoman, said Tuesday.
“I have reached an agreement with the White House to provide the committee access to all OLC opinions related to the targeted killing of Americans in a way that allows members to fulfill their oversight responsibilities," Feinstein said in a statement. “I am pleased the administration has made this information available. It is important for the committee to do its work and will pave the way for the confirmation of John Brennan to be CIA director.” Feinstein said last month that the administration was refusing to provide seven OLC opinions related to its targeted killing programs. Of the 11 total OLC opinions that relate to the program, only four had previously been seen by members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The Obama administration also hasn't disclosed the total number of secret OLC opinions it has relied on in the past four years.
The Senate is expected to vote Tuesday afternoon on whether or not to confirm Brennan, the president's counterterrorism adviser and chief architect of the targeted killing program, as CIA director.
Some groups calling for more transparency from the administration on its use of drones said the disclosure was a good first move, but added that the memos should be made public.
"We welcome any and all disclosures to the Intelligence Committee, but would also note that the president promised to be more publicly transparent," said Raha Wala, advocacy counsel at Human Rights First. "The Obama administration should take the next step and make public, with appropriate redactions for national security, all the legal guidance undergirding the targeted killing program."
The disclosure is “an important first baby step towards restoring the checks and balances between Congress and the president," Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement Tuesday.
"The legal opinions also shouldn’t stay hidden with the few dozen members of the intelligence committees, but should be available to all members of Congress and minimally redacted copies should be made public," Anders said. "It makes a mockery of the rule of law when the government hides the rules, or makes them up as they go along. It is time to come clean with Congress and the American people."
UPDATE: 2:06 p.m. -- Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who has long called for greater access to the OLC memos, said in a statement Tuesday that he would vote for Brennan's confirmation.
"After pushing the White House for more access, we have now gained the ability to review the administration's legal rationale," Udall said. "I intend to review these documents with the continuing goal of safeguarding Americans' constitutional liberties and determining the limits of executive branch powers in this new age of warfare."
Udall's office told The Huffington Post that one staffer for each senator on the committee will be granted access to the memos, as well as the senators themselves.