Fearful that the confirmation hearings of John Brennan for CIA director would be derailed before they started, President Obama relented and gave Congress a secret legal memo explaining his justification for drone strikes on Americans suspected of working with terrorists.

The issue is sure to be a central question in the Senate hearings today of Brennan, a longtime CIA official who left the agency to become Obama’s counterterrorism expert and the czar of the drone program. Obama was coming under increasing criticism from members of Congress for not releasing the memo — which the administration had previously claimed didn’t exist.

The president undoubtedly was pressured by the leaking of the memo to NBC News, which released it earlier in the week. The undated 16-page memo is titled “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operation Leader of al Qaeda or An Associated Force.” The administration argues that the killing of an American can be ordered even in the absence of an “active plot” to attack the United States.

According to some estimates, the CIA and the U.S. military have undertaken more than 300 drone strikes and killed about 2,500 people — many of them civilians. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates a higher number — that from 2004 to 2013, CIA drone attacks in Pakistan killed up to 3,461 people — up to 891 of them civilians.

Read the full story on Atlanta Black Star – http://atlantablackstar.com/2013/02/07/obama-releases-secret-memo-to-senate-on-drone-program/

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