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US Drone Strikes Seen as Key to Vote on New CIA Chief

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President Barack Obama's choice to head the CIA is expected to discuss the administration's use of unmanned drones against terrorist targets overseas when he appears before Congress Thursday.

Senators who must confirm Mr. Obama's choice of national security adviser John Brennan to lead the CIA are expected to question him closely about the controversial drone policy. Brennan is a strong supporter of the use of unmanned aircraft to identify and attack terrorist targets abroad.

Brennan worked for the Central Intelligence Agency before taking up his current White House post. During his time as chief of the CIA team in Saudi Arabia, Brennan is believed to have payed a pivotal role in negotiations with Saudi leaders that produced an agreement for a base for U.S. unmanned aircraft in the kingdom.

Saudi-based drone aircraft have hunted down al-Qaida terrorists in neighboring Yemen.

Critics say such attacks too often lead to the deaths of innocent civilians, and they contend such tactics are immoral. Pakistan says it never gave blanket agreement for U.S. airstrikes on its territory, and it has strongly criticized the use of U.S. drones.

Brennan says the tactical use of unmanned aircraft against terrorist targets is legal, ethical and highly effective. President Obama has said Brennan's counterterrorism work has made it harder for al-Qaida to plan attacks against the United States.

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