March 7, 2013 / 9:38 PM / 4 years ago

U.S. Senate approves Brennan as new CIA director

Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on his nomination to be the Director of the CIA, on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 7, 2013.Jason Reed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed John Brennan as the Obama administration's next director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Senate voted 63-34 in favor of Brennan, overcoming Republican Senator Rand Paul's attempt to slow the White House counter-terrorism advisor from becoming the next head of the CIA.

Paul, who spent nearly 13 hours speaking on the Senate floor on Wednesday, was irate about the reluctance of the Obama administration to declare that "targeted killings" of American citizens on U.S. soil were unconstitutional.

Attorney General Eric Holder then clarified the administration's policy on Thursday and said that Obama would not use his authority to order a drone to kill an American on U.S. soil who was "not engaged in combat."

Holder initially declined to declare the targeted killings would be unconstitutional, saying that there could be situations, similar to the September 11 2001 al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington D.C., in which such killings might be appropriate.

Ted Cruz, another Republican senator who tried to slow Brennan's confirmation, said that under questioning, Holder would only declare that such killings were inappropriate, but eventually acknowledged they would be unconstitutional.

Paul's 13-hour speech was the latest twist in a convoluted confirmation process which delayed Senate confirmation of Brennan for a few weeks.

The nomination became a vehicle for Republicans and some Democratic critics to pressure the White House to disclose sensitive government records, including emails and documents related to targeted killings and the administration's response to the September 11 2012 attacks on U.S. outposts in Benghazi, Libya.

Reporting by Rachelle Younglai and Mark Hosenball; Editing by Sandra Maler

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