The Cable

Just in Time for Drones Review, Senate Confirms New Attorney General

Just in time for a White House review of a botched drone strike in Pakistan that killed American citizens, the Senate on Thursday confirmed Loretta Lynch as attorney general. As head of the Justice Department, Lynch will oversee much of the legal debate over targeting U.S. citizens and whether strikes on foreign suspects are consistent ...

US-POLITICS-LYNCH
Loretta Lynch listens during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee January 28, 2015 in Washington, DC. Loretta Lynch, a prosecutor with the US Attorney Eastern District of New York, has been nominated to serve as US Attorney General. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Just in time for a White House review of a botched drone strike in Pakistan that killed American citizens, the Senate on Thursday confirmed Loretta Lynch as attorney general.

As head of the Justice Department, Lynch will oversee much of the legal debate over targeting U.S. citizens and whether strikes on foreign suspects are consistent with international law.

The White House maintains that the January attack that accidentally killed aid workers Warren Weinstein, an American, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian, “was lawful and conducted consistent with our counterterrorism policies.”

Even so, “we are conducting a thorough independent review to understand fully what happened and how we can prevent this type of tragic incident in the future,” the White House said in a statement.

Suspected al Qaeda operative Ahmed Farouq, also a U.S. citizen, was killed in the same strike in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Separately, the White House said, high-profile al Qaeda propagandist Adam Gadahn was killed in another drone attack in the same region.

Lynch has been prosecuting terrorism cases for years — including, while she served as the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn and Long Island, a plot to blow up New York’s Federal Reserve Bank and another to bomb the New York subway. As attorney general, she’ll now have to defend the Obama administration’s refusal to release Justice Department memos that justify launching drone strikes against suspects instead of bringing them to court.

Her Senate confirmation, which was delayed for months, was one bright spot for the White House on an otherwise gloomy day. “America will be better off for it,” Obama said of her confirmation.

Photo credit: Brendan Smialowski / AFP

Lara Jakes is the deputy managing editor of news for Foreign Policy magazine and a former war correspondent, Baghdad bureau chief and award-winning senior national security and diplomatic writer for The Associated Press. She's a 1995 graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism and lives in Alexandria, Va., with her husband. @larajakesFP

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