The White House's New Game: Trade Benghazi Secrets to Hush Up Drones

Dashiell Bennett

As the Obama Administration maneuvers to secure John Brennan's appointment as CIA director, they are reportedly offering to give Republicans new information about the attack on Benghazi, in the hopes that Senators will back off on demanding more information about its drone program. The New York Times describes the ongoing negotiation as way to get Brennan's confirmation vote finished, with Senators voting yes from both sides of the aisle, and without having to give up its most classified secrets about drones.

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Senators all up and down the Intelligence Committee are upset that that White House is witholding its confidential legal opinions that were crafted to defend the use of drone in targeted killings. Some Senators have received a declassified white paper that attempted to summarize the official Executive Branch positions, in particular with regard to assassinations of American citizens abroad. However, that white paper raised more questions than it answered. When Brennan—the President's top counterterrorism advisor and chief architect of his drone strategy—was put up for nomination, more than one Senator saw it as the perfect leverage to get answers.

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However, other Senators saw it as leverage to get answers on another hot topic of debate, the attack on the Benghazi consulate last September. This new strategy hopes to split the difference. By giving Republicans what they're looking for on Benghazi, the White House hopes to win enough votes to get Brennan's confirmation through any possible delays or filibusters. The lack of transparency on drones might not placate Democrats like Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, but with enough Republican support they'll be able to vote their disapproval without holding up the President's nominee.

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What isn't clear is how any negotiation might affect the President's other Cabinet nominee, Chuck Hagel. He faces an even tougher route to confirmation, but if Senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham like what they hear from the White House about Benghazi, he may find a smoother job transition, as well.