John Brennan, the president's assistant on homeland security and counterterrorism, on Monday, May 2, 2011, spoke to the press about the raid and subseqent killing of terrorist Osama bin Laden. This is a file photograph of the Deputy National Security Advisior John Brennan made as he talked to the press about security during the holiday season. He is with White House press Secy Robert Gibbs in the White house briefing room.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – John Brennan, nominated last month by President Barack Obama to become the next CIA director, came one step closer Tuesday to assuming that role after being approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
But the former top counterterrorism adviser still faces a battle in the full Senate, where some Republicans have vowed to stall his nomination until they receive answers about the country's drone program and the September attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.
The intelligence panel voted 12-3 to send Brennan's nomination to the full Senate. The committee vote was delayed twice as members received and processed classified documents relating to the White House's targeted killing program, which includes the use of unmanned drones to kill suspected terrorists.
"There were some inconsistencies in his presentation before the committee and I think we've got to have a stronger trust relationship with the CIA than what I felt like Mr. Brennan could bring," said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, one of the three who voted against Brennan.
The Obama administration agreed Tuesday to provide members of the Intelligence Committee with additional legal opinions related to the targeted killings of Americans who are involved in terror-related activities that threaten the United States or its interests. The White House had previously turned over other opinions about the drone operation to the committee, but some members wanted more information before agreeing to vote on Brennan's nomination.
Brennan has been a top architect of the Obama administration's drone program, which came under scrutiny after the killing of American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in September 2011. Sen. Rand Paul, a conservative Republican from Kentucky, has said he would hold up a vote on Brennan until more details on the drone program are released by the Obama administration.
Brennan was grilled on the program during confirmation hearings, along with his stance on torture methods that were used during the administration of former President George W. Bush in the aftermath of the September 11, 2011 terror attacks.
Sen. John McCain, one the Republican lawmakers threatening to hold up a vote on Brennan's nomination in the full Senate, has questioned Brennan's stance of torture, saying two weeks ago on CNN's "State of the Union" he was unclear where the nominee stood on the issue.
"Mr. Brennan said he was opposed to waterboarding and torture, but at the same time he has said it has saved lives. I would like to know what lives were saved because the information I have is it saved no one's life. In fact, it was a lot of misinformation," he told CNN's Candy Crowley.
McCain, along with fellow GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, is also demanding answers about the September attack in Benghazi, Libya, before the agree to proceed with a Senate vote on Brennan.
"I'm not going to vote on a new CIA director until I find out what the CIA did in Benghazi," Graham said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation."
Graham specifically wants to see the interviews of the survivors. While transcriptions were provided to the Senate Intelligence Committee – of which Graham is not a member – Graham said "everything was blacked out."
Graham and McCain have been leading voices on the charge against the administration over the attack, which killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador.