US Senate panel approves Brennan to be new CIA chief

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday gave its approval for John Brennan to be the next director of the CIA, setting up a full confirmation vote as early as this week.

Senators in a closed-door hearing voted 12-3 to approve Mr Brennan, putting him on track to be President Barack Obama's third major national security nominee to be confirmed, after Secretary of State John Kerry and Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel.

"No one is better prepared to be CIA director than Mr. Brennan," Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the committee, said in a statement announcing the vote.

"The CIA needs a confirmed director, and Majority Leader (Harry) Reid is committed to moving quickly to schedule a vote." Mr Brennan has been subjected to a two-month confirmation process, with some US lawmakers insisting that questions remain about his nomination.

Republicans acknowledged that they hoped to extract more information from the White House about its secret drone programme and the attack on US diplomats on Sept 11, 2012 in Benghazi, Libya.

On Tuesday Ms Feinstein announced that the White House, under pressure to release more information on drones, relented and provided additional materials to senators, including documentation that may have been used to justify the contentious US drone strike policy.

"Just last night I reached agreement with the White House to review all OLC (Office of Legal Counsel) opinions on targeted killings of Americans," Ms Feinstein said.

"It was unfortunate these issues delayed the process, but I am confident that they have been resolved." Mr Brennan, 57, is a 25-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency.

For the past four years he has worked in the White House as Obama's chief counter-terrorism expert, and helped orchestrate the covert targeted killings of US enemies by unmanned aerial drones.

The drone programme, and particularly the guidelines on killing American citizens suspected of involvement in terrorism, was a key issue during Mr Brennan's confirmation hearing last month.

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