U.S Sen. Al Franken is among a bipartisan group of 11 senators appealing directly to the White House to detail the administration's legal justification for using armed drones to kill American citizens.
The debate over the legality of the U.S. drone program has raged for years. Media reports indicate that overseas drone strikes have killed at least three Americans suspected of working with terrorists. But the program is covert so U.S. officials do not mention the strikes directly. And while Attorney General Eric Holder has discussed the legal rationale for targeting Americans overseas, he has declined to discuss whether the Justice Department has prepared memos approving the drone attacks.
The senators' letter asks President Obama to provide members of the Judiciary and Intelligence committees with "any and all legal opinions that lay out the executive branch's official understanding of the President's authority to deliberately kill American citizens.
"It is vitally important ... for Congress and the American public to have a full understanding of how the executive branch interprets the limits and boundaries of this authority, so that Congress and the public can decide whether this authority has been properly defined," the letter continues, "and whether the President's power to deliberately kill American citizens is subject to appropriate limitations and safeguards."
The Justice Department has typically rejected requests for such opinions, but the senators -- eight Democrat, three Republican -- sent notice that a denial could come with consequences.
The senators strongly suggested that they will hold up nominations for national security positions, which could include Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel and the John Brennan, Obama's pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, if the administration does not hand over the requested documents.
Brennan's confirmation hearing is scheduled for Thursday. Hagel's hearing was last week.
Here's the letter to the president: