Senate panel likely to vote this week on CIA pick

Updated 26 February 2013
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Senate panel likely to vote this week on CIA pick

WASHINGTON: A White House commitment to provide lawmakers with additional information about the attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, may have cleared the way for a vote later this week on President Barack Obama’s nominee for CIA director, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Monday.
Republicans had demanded the records as a condition of moving forward with John Brennan’s confirmation.
“The administration has agreed to provide the material, (and) some of it is going to be provided tomorrow,” said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein. “It is my hope that that is sufficient and we will be able to schedule the nomination for a vote on Thursday.”
But Feinstein also said the Obama administration has not yet responded to the committee’s request for more details about the classified Justice Department legal opinions that justify using unmanned spy planes to kill Al-Qaeda suspects overseas, including American citizens.
Feinstein said she still needs to consult with the committee’s vice chairman, Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss, on the date for the vote on Brennan’s nomination. She declined to specify what information on Benghazi the White House will be giving the committee.
A congressional aide said last week that the documents include e-mails between top national security officials showing the debate within the administration over how to describe the attack and other documents the committee had previously requested. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
While the nomination appears to be headed for a committee vote, several senators said Monday they still have lingering questions and concerns about the lethal drone strikes and Brennan’s knowledge about the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation techniques during the administration of President George W. Bush.
Brennan, 57, is a veteran of more than three decades in intelligence work. He withdrew his name from nomination to head the CIA at the start of Obama’s first term amid questions about the role he played at the spy agency when the Bush administration approved waterboarding and other forms of “enhanced interrogation” of suspected terrorists.
“We need any and all legal opinions pertaining to the targeted killings, and we have not gotten that,” said Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, a member of the Intelligence Committee. “We need those documents in order to carry out our obligation to do vigilant oversight.”
Republican Sen. Susan Collins said she is inclined to support Brennan’s nomination but agreed the Justice Department opinions should be disclosed to the committee along with the Benghazi information. “It’s my understanding that we’re making some progress on that latter issue but not any on the former,” she said.
Republican Sen. John McCain has threatened to put a hold on Brennan’s nomination unless the Benghazi information is delivered. The Arizona senator, a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, also has said that Brennan’s positions on waterboarding and torture are inconsistent because Brennan has said he’s opposed to such methods while also arguing they saved lives.
“We have a number of questions that need to be answered,” McCain said.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul said last week he will use Senate procedural rules to try to block a vote on Brennan’s nomination unless his concerns over the legality of using drone strikes inside the US are answered. Paul said he has written to Brennan three times about the extent of the government’s drone authority, most recently on Feb. 21.
Brennan has told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the Obama administration has not carried out drone strikes on US soil and has no intention of doing so.
But Paul said that answer is insufficient. “The question that I and many others have asked is not whether the administration has or intends to carry out drone strikes inside the United States, but whether it believes it has the authority to do so,” Paul wrote. “This is an important distinction that should not be ignored.”
Moira Bagley, Paul’s spokeswoman, said Monday the senator has not received a response from Brennan.


Leaders of two Koreas hold surprise meeting as Trump revives summit hopes

Updated 27 May 2018
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Leaders of two Koreas hold surprise meeting as Trump revives summit hopes

SEOUL/WASHINGTON: South Korean President Moon Jae-in held a surprise meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Saturday in an effort to ensure that a high-stakes summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump takes place successfully, South Korean officials said.
The meeting was the latest dramatic turn in a week of diplomatic flip-flops surrounding the prospects for an unprecedented summit between the United States and North Korea, and the strongest sign yet that the two Korean leaders are trying to keep the on-again off-again summit on track.
Their two hours of talks at the Panmunjom border village came a month after they held the first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade at the same venue. At that meeting, they declared they would work toward a nuclear-free Korean peninsula and a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War.
“The two leaders candidly exchanged views about making the North Korea-US summit a successful one and about implementing the Panmunjom Declaration,” South Korea’s presidential spokesman said in a statement. He did not confirm how the meeting was arranged or which side asked for it.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment. But White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said an advance team of White House and US State Department officials would leave for Singapore on schedule this weekend to prepare for a possible summit there.
Reuters reported earlier this week that a US advance team was scheduled to discuss the agenda and logistics for the summit with North Korean officials.
“There is a very strong possibility a US-North Korea summit could be back on very soon,” said Harry Kazianis of the conservative Center for the National Interest think-tank in Washington.
Whether one takes place depends on Kim agreeing to some sort of a realistic and verifiable denuclearization plan, added Kazianis, citing his own Trump administration sources. “If not, no summit. That is what it hinges on,” he said.
TRUMP HAILS “PRODUCTIVE TALKS“
In a letter to Kim on Thursday, Trump had said he was canceling the summit planned for June 12 in Singapore, citing North Korea’s “open hostility.”
But on Friday he indicated the meeting could be salvaged after welcoming a conciliatory statement from Pyongyang.
“We’re talking to them now. They very much want to do it. We’d like to do it,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
In a tweet later, Trump cited “very productive talks” and said that if the summit were reinstated it would likely remain in Singapore on June 12, and that it could be extended if necessary.
A senior White House official told reporters on Thursday that organizing a summit by June 12 could be a challenge, given the amount of dialogue needed to ensure a clear agenda.
“And June 12 is in ... 10 minutes,” the official said.
If the summit is not held, some analysts warn that the prospect of a military confrontation between the two nations would rise, while a successful summit would mark Trump’s biggest foreign policy achievement.
The Trump administration is demanding that North Korea completely and irreversibly shutter its nuclear weapons program. Kim and Trump’s initial decision to meet followed months of war threats and insults between the leaders over the program.
Pyongyang has conducted six nuclear tests, and has developed a long-range missile that could theoretically hit anywhere in the United States. Experts, however, are doubtful that North Korea possesses a warhead capable of surviving the stresses of re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.
Video and a photo released by South Korea’s presidential Blue House on Saturday showed Kim hugging Moon and kissing him on the cheek three times as he saw Moon off after their meeting at Tongilgak, the North’s building in the truce village, which lies in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) — the 2.5-mile (4 km) wide buffer that runs along the heavily armed military border.
Video footage also showed Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, greeting Moon as he arrived at Tongilgak and shaking hands, before the South Korean leader entered the building flanked by North Korean military guards.
Moon is the only South Korean leader to have met a North Korean leader twice, both times in the DMZ, which is a symbol of the unending hostilities between the nations after the Korean War ended in 1953 in a truce, not a peace treaty.