Newspaper article Roll Call

McCain Sets Stage for Fight over Drones

Newspaper article Roll Call

McCain Sets Stage for Fight over Drones

Article excerpt

Sen. John McCain is planning to shift the CIA's secretive drone program to the Defense Department through the National Defense Authorization Act, setting the stage for a fight later this year with Senate Intelligence leaders and making him an unlikely ally of President Barack Obama.

The Arizona Republican has been particularly critical of the program under the CIA's watch following recent revelations that a drone strike in January in Pakistan killed American aid worker Warren Weinstein and Italian aid worker Giovanni Lo Porto.

"We'll be looking at some kind of legislation on the defense authorization bill to see that that accelerates," McCain said. "I'm the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. We will be doing something in the NDAA."

McCain said on Tuesday that he would discuss the matter with Sen. Richard M. Burr, R-N.C., the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, but he anticipated the two would split.

"We work very closely together, but this is an issue that I've been very clear on for a long time; it will not surprise him," McCain said, who downplayed concerns of a fight over the issue. "We may have a disagreement. That's what votes are for in the United States Senate."

Burr on Tuesday wouldn't talk about the CIA drone program, which is an open secret in Washington.

"I didn't know we had a drone program," he said, smiling.

But Intelligence Committee ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California, said on Tuesday the claims of the need to switch oversight was "premature," and that oversight of the program was best left as is.

"I think they're taking one incident and using it for this purpose," Feinstein said. "We have much more oversight over the intelligence program than they have over the military program, and that's just a fact."

Feinstein said the Intelligence Committee has already spent a considerable amount of time reviewing the program. She said a robust oversight system is already in place, with 61 staff sessions and approximately 350 real-time videos of strikes reviewed to date. …

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