After years of public silence but growing frustration, United States Democrats and Republicans are suddenly demanding far more oversight of the secret White House program of targeted killings abroad by missile-firing drones.
Several lawmakers in both houses of Congress, particularly concerned about the targeting of US citizens, for the first time say they are considering creating a special court to review who gets put on the "kill list," and why.
The goal, they say, is to impose judicial review on what has been an opaque process run from the White House and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
A testy confirmation hearing on Thursday for John Brennan, whom President Barack Obama has nominated to run the CIA, unleashed built-up concerns in the Senate Intelligence Committee about what several members called the administration's lack of accountability on the secret legal thresholds for authorising drone strikes.
By Friday, that had spawned a flurry of separate demands from the House and Senate judiciary committees for classified legal opinions governing drone strikes, and the possibility of the first congressional hearings on targeted killings of US citizens accused of being militants.
"The deliberate killing of a United States citizen pursuant to a targeted operation authorised or aided by our government raises significant constitutional and legal concerns," said a letter to Obama from Democrat Senator Patrick J Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Charles E Grassley, the committee's ranking Republican.
Republican Representative Robert W Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, sent a separate letter requesting Department of Justice opinions governing all targeted killings, including "signature strikes" on groups of military-age men whose names are not known but whose activities indicate they are affiliated with militant groups.
Those strikes have caused the most casualties, including civilian deaths.
They have raised a backlash of public anger in Pakistan, where the CIA drone strikes have been most intense.
It is far from clear whether congress has the political will to place even minimal constraints on Obama's signature counterterrorism effort, which polls show voters broadly support.
Drone strikes began under the George W Bush administration, but the number of lethal attacks by remotely piloted aircraft has grown dramatically under Obama.
Over the last four years, CIA and US military drone strikes have killed an estimated 3000 suspected militants in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
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