Career spy John Brennan is heading to the Senate today to begin his first steps towards becoming the next director of the CIA. Brennan is a 25 year agency veteran who served as deputy executive director from 2001 to 2003 and before that, as a top analyst and Saudi Arabia station chief.
Unlike the controversial nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel, no lawmaker has openly objected to the nomination of John Brennan, who is viewed as a close confidante of the president. Brennan has also run the National Counter-terrorism Center and the Terrorist Threat Integration Center.
But as the person who developed and managed the White House’s drone program, Brennan’s nomination has highlighted a policy that is as controversial as it is top secret. Today’s hearing gives the Senate a rare opportunity to exercise authority over a man who has historically withheld more than he divulges.
During the hearings he will be fielding questions on several controversial topics: the CIA’s now defunct enhanced interrogation program where they use water-boarding to get information out of their suspects. Brennan was a top CIA official when the program was approved during the Bush Administration. He says at the time, he was “aware of the program but did not play a role and its create.” Brennan also insists he voiced “significant concerns and personal objections” to his CIA colleagues.
The second hot area is the drone program, which Brennan designed, expanded, and implemented in the Middle East and Yemen. The 16-page Justice Department “white paper” memo that was published by NBC News late Monday evening, outlines the Justice Department’s legal reasoning why it believes the Administration can use drones in target killings of Americans who are believed to be senior al-Qaeda leaders when capture is not possible.
Another hot topic includes accusations by Republicans that Brennan leaked national security details on the bin Laden take-down and cyber-attacks against Iran’s nuclear facilities to bolster Obama’s standing during the campaign. The White House says the briefings were authorized and backed by the President.
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