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Drone Program Under Scrutiny As CIA Nominee Testifies

John Brennan, President Obama's nominee to lead the CIA, testified at his confirmation hearing Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The Obama administration has made its drone program the signature feature of its counterterrorism efforts. But it's not a subject it likes to talk about.

However, the controversial drone program and one of its chief architects came under the spotlight Thursday as John Brennan went before the Senate Intelligence Committee for his confirmation hearing as director of the CIA.

During the Bush administration, fewer than 50 drone strikes carried out. There have been more than 360 under Obama, according to the website The Long War Journal.

Brennan, who has been President Obama's adviser on counterterrorism, is expected to win Senate approval. But his role in the lethal drone program has drawn public criticism. As Brennan was reading his opening statement, he was interrupted repeatedly by protesters who shouted their opposition to U.S. drone strikes.

Sen. Diane Feinstein, the California Democrat who chairs the committee, blamed the group Code Pink for the protests and ordered the hearing room cleared for several minutes.

When questioning began, Brennan was asked about the "enhanced interrogation techniques," including waterboarding that took place after the Sept 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Brennen, who was at the CIA at the time, said: "I was aware of the program ... but i had no oversight of it. ... I professed my personal objections to it, but i did not try to stop because it was something being done in a different part of the agency."

We will update with additional testimony.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit www.npr.org.

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