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Obama Drone Program Should Be Run By Pentagon, John McCain Says (VIDEO)

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Fox News Sunday
Fox News Sunday

WASHINGTON -- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) wants to move the federal government's armed drone program to the Pentagon, arguing that the CIA should not be running it.

"What we really need to do is take this whole program out of the hands of the Central Intelligence Agency and put it into the Department of Defense, where you have adequate oversight, you have committee oversight, you have all the things that are built in as our oversight of the Department of Defense," McCain, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on "Fox News Sunday."

"Since when is the intelligence agency supposed to be an air force of drones that goes around killing people?" McCain asked. "I believe that it's a job for the Department of Defense."

He also said he disagreed with an idea being floated by some senators to create a specific court to sign off on drone strikes, calling such an endeavor an "encroachment on the powers of the president of the United States."

McCain's proposal to move the drone program likely wouldn't go over well with House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who said on CBS's "Face the Nation" that there's already adequate oversight of the drone program's targeted killings.

"There is plenty of oversight here," Rogers said. "There is not an American list somewhere overseas for targeting; that does not exist, and I think there's been some sensationalism. ... This is a serious matter, but I do think that the oversight rules have been, I think, consistent."

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he was pleased the Obama administration decided last week to release to certain members of Congress its documents justifying drone strikes on Americans. Cantor did not criticize the overall program, however.

"If we're going to continue to be the leading force for peace, prosperity and security in this world, we're going to have to have the tools necessary to do so," he said. "And I believe, just as in the prior administration, this administration -- we can strike that balance to protect America, to employ technologies to do that, at the same time upholding constitutional rights."

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) struck a similar note on the show, adding, "Here's the balance we have to strike: The constitution said the American people will decide whether we go to war. The American people, through Congress, will vote on this."

When pressed on whether the drone policy should be changed, Durbin noted that he was one of a number of senators who requested more details from the administration on the issue but added that for now, the "policy is really unfolding."

"But at least the president is engaged in this conversation to establish this legal architecture," Durbin said. "That is a dramatic change from the past."

Last week, President Obama authorized the Justice Department to share the legal opinions on drones with the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. The House and Senate Judiciary Commitees have also requested to view the documents, arguing that their jurisdiction over civil liberties necessitates access to the information.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was one of the few harsh critics of targeted killings to appear on the Sunday shows, saying he was going to press CIA director nominee John Brennan for more answers in the coming days. Specifically, Paul said he wants the administration to answer a question posed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.): When can the federal government do drone strikes in the United States?

"I think it's very unseemly that a politician gets to decide the death of an American citizen," Paul said on CNN's "State of the Union."

"If you're an American citizen, you go overseas, you take up arms -- I'm probably for executing you, but I would want to hear the evidence, I would want to have a judge and a jury. It can be fairly swift, but there needs to be a trial for treason," he said. "The president, a politician, Republican or Democrat, should never get to decide someone's death by flipping through flash cards and say[ing], 'Do you want to kill him?'"

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