CIA director John Brennan
CIA director John Brennan. Photo by AP
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The Senate Intelligence Committee voted Tuesday to approve President Barack Obama's pick to lead the CIA after winning a behind-the-scenes battle with the White House over access to a series of top-secret legal opinions that justify the use of lethal drone strikes against terror suspects, including American citizens.

John Brennan's installation at the spy agency has been delayed as Senate Democrats and Republicans have pressed the Obama administration to allow a review of the classified documents prepared by the Justice Department. The senators have argued they can't perform adequate oversight without reviewing the contents of the opinions, but the White House had resisted requests for full disclosure.

The intelligence committee's chairwoman, Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, said in a statement Tuesday that the committee voted 12-3 to send Brennan's nomination to the full Senate for confirmation. The panel's deliberations were held behind closed doors. Feinstein did not identify the senators who voted against Brennan.

Although Brennan has made it out of the committee, Republicans have threatened to hold up his nomination unless the White House supplies them with classified information, including emails among top U.S.national security officials, detailing the Obama administration's actions immediately following the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.

U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed during the raid.

Feinstein said the full Senate should act quickly confirm Brennan, who spent 25 years at the CIA before becoming Obama's top counterterrorism and homeland security adviser in the White House.

"He draws on a deep well of experience: 25 years as a CIA analyst, chief of station, manager, head of counterterrorism efforts and White House homeland security adviser," Feinstein said of Brennan.