Drone strikes have expanded dramatically in the Obama administration. Fewer than 50 took place during the Bush administration, while more than 360 strikes have been launched under Obama, according to the website The Long War Journal.
, which tracks the operations. The strikes have been credited with killing more than 70 senior al-Qaida and Taliban commanders in Pakistan alone since they began in 2004.
In Thursday’s hearing, Brennan defended strikes as necessary, saying they are taken only as a “last resort,” but he said he had no qualms about the strike that killed U.S. born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, because of his roles in several terror attacks.
“The decisions that are made are to take action so that we prevent a future action, so we protect American lives,” Brennan said. “That is an inherently executive branch function to determine, and the commander in chief ... has the responsibility to protect the welfare, wellbeing of American citizens.
Still, he said the White House, too, had considered the concept of the special courts, and he said he would be open to discussing it because “American citizens by definition are due much greater due process than anybody else by dint of their citizenship.”
The White House did not offer further comment Friday, and the CIA declined to comment.
Brennan said people are never killed by CIA or military strikes if there is a way to capture them.
Feinstein said at Thursday’s hearing that she believed the CIA was open with lawmakers about its part of the program.
“We have provided a lot of oversight over the Predator,” she said. “There’s a staff team goes out regularly that is at Langley that does look at the intelligence on a regular basis,” making more than 30 visits to review strikes and the intelligence leading up to them.