(Developing story–check back for updates over the next few days)
John Brennan’s battle with the Senate Intelligence Committee over the Torture Report
Given his past associations with Bush’s torture and other scandalous programs, and his role in overseeing White House targeted killing lists and ensuing drone strikes with the president’s approval and/or participation, John Brennan should never have been confirmed as Director of the CIA.
Now he has become both the symbol of a rogue CIA and the primary obstacle to getting control of the agency and bringing it back under the supervision and control of a democratic state governed by law. Under the Constitution’s separation of powers, that supervision is the responsibility of both the president and the congress, including in particular the Senate Intelligence Committee which is chaired by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-California).
She has now delivered an extraordinary speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate in which she lays out in detail the obstruction her committee has encountered in dealing with the CIA, particularly in connection with the drafting, declassification, and publication of a 6,000 word report on the CIA’s involvement in George W. Bush’s torture program, euphemistically referred to as one of “enhanced interrogation techniques”, or as Brennan referred to them in his Senate confirmation hearings, “EIT’s”.
For background on Brennan and his confirmation hearings, see the following article and the articles cited in it:
“Torture and torture memos pose serious obstacle to confirmation of Carolyn Krass as CIA General Counsel,” The Trenchant Observer, December 20, 2013.
As noted below, the Krass nomination was approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee on March 4, 2014.
It is difficult to imagine how John Brennan can continue to lead the CIA, now that he is involved in a very public and bitter dispute with the Senate Intelligence Committee and its Chair, Senator Feinstein–over matters that go to the very heart of what constitutes democratic government under the rule law.
Brennan’s hubris was once again revealed as he immediately gave a TV interview in which he contradicted Senator Feinstein.
Despite his extraordinarily close relationship with President Obama, to whom he served in many respects as a mentor and guide to the secret world of intelligence operations, Brennan should begin looking for a new job.
Russia’s aggression against the Ukraine and military seizure of the Crimea has been a wake-up call for Washington, demonstrating again how international law is important after all, particularly in terms of setting precedents, and of mobilizing coalitions and generating international support for collective action.
Russian intervention in the Ukraine has underlines the fact that unsanctioned violations of international law weaken its authority, and even its most important provisions including the prohibition of the illegal threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of another state.
It is now time for the United States to put its rogue actions behind it, and to bring its policies and actions into compliance with international law.
Brennan is a symbol and defender of these rogue policies from the past, and doesn’t fit the new requirements of the job. To cite but one example, at his confirmation hearings, he was unable to bring himself to admit that “waterboarding” constitutes torture.
A new kind of leader is needed at the CIA.
Links to Videos and Transcripts
For links to the video and transcripts of Senator Feinstein’s speech on the Senate floor, and Brennan’s response, see:
(1) “Sen. Feinstein Accuses CIA of Searching Congressional Computers,” C-SPAN, March 11, 2014. (CLIP FROM MARCH 11, 2014, Senate Session, Part 1, with informal transcript).
The head of the Senate Intelligence Committee says the CIA improperly searched a stand-alone computer network established for Congress as part of its investigation into allegations of CIA abuse in a Bush-era detention and interrogation program. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California defended her committee’s work and challenged the CIA on Tuesday as she sought to set the record straight amid various reports of disputes between Congress and the agency.
For the YouTube video, click here.
(2) “CIA Director Denies Spying on Senate Intel Committee” NBC News, March 11, 2014 (with video link).
(3) The Senate Intelligence Committee approved the nomination of Carolyn Krass to be General Counsel of the CIA on March 4, it was announced on March 6, 2014, by a vote of 13-2. If approved by the full Senate, she will replace acting General Counsel Robert Eatinger, who has been at the center of a number of controversial issues and decisions related to the torture program.
The Qualities Needed in a New CIA Director
(To be continued)
The Trenchant Observer
Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
El Observador Incisivo