The Obama administration’s decision to share previously classified counter-terrorism documents comes after NBC’s Michael Isikoff’s exclusive reporting and mounting pressure from Washington lawmakers calling for more transparency.
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. is one of eleven senators who wrote a letter to President Obama, pushing him to reveal classified documents justifying the administration’s authority to carry out drone strikes on U.S. citizens.
“This is about fundamental values,” Udall told The Daily Rundown’s Chuck Todd, and continued:
“You’re talking about a president, any president, having the ability to exercise his national security power to protect the country, and in this case, an extraordinary power to kill an American citizen. And the other value is due process. We care a lot about due process. We care a lot about our liberty interests under the constitution. We know that if you take away an American life in this process, you can’t bring it back. And so this is a fundamental debate that needs to occur, it’s oversight that needs to occur.”
The secrecy surrounding drone strikes has been getting a lot more attention as confirmation hearings move forward for the President’s pick to be CIA director, current White House counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan. Brennan has vigorously defended the strikes’ legality.
Udall mentioned the killing of suspected al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki, an American born in Udall’s state of New Mexico. Awlaki was killed by U.S. drone strikes in Yemen in September, 2011 but was never charged or indicted by the U.S. government.
“I demanded the legal opinions at that time, and I have pursued that,” said Udall. “And I think it’s important that there be the oversight, that congress play a role. We’re not trying to call the shots and be commanders-in-chief. What we’re trying to do is find out what the legal framework is, the limits are, to make sure that under any president, any president, this is done with the utmost care.”
The documents are currently only being released to the Senate Intelligence Committee, but Udall, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expects that their audience will be expanded.
“I think they’re trying to restrict it and I think all of us are pushing back,” he said, “and I think eventually we’re going to be able to see them.”