CIA Nominee John Brennan Draws Fire From Civil Liberties and Human Rights Advocates

On January 7, 2013, John O. Brennan was formally nominated to replace David Petreaus as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. With both liberals and conservatives focusing their attention on Defense Secretary Nominee Chuck Hagel, the nomination of Brennan has been pushed aside. But Brennan’s recent record at the CIA is reason to give pause and look at his record in recent years.

In the Bush White House, Brennan oversaw a torture program that saw terror suspects such as Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM) waterboarded 183 times in a one month span. Brennan told The Early Show in November 2007, “There has been a lot of information that has come out from these interrogation procedures that the agency has in fact used against the real hard-core terrorists. It has saved lives. And let's not forget, these are hardened terrorists who have been responsible for 9/11, who have shown no remorse at all for the deaths of 3,000 innocents.” However, torturing Khalid Sheik Mohammed did not help in the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Despite being tortured, KSM lied to interrogators, telling them that the courier Bin Laden used was retired and no longer active. It was, in fact, the same courier that was ultimately used to trace Bin Laden’s whereabouts in Abbotobad, Pakistan. Torture programs that Brennan defended are not effective and they are a permanent stain on the United States’ human rights record.

The Senate should not move forward with his nomination until all senators can assess the role of the CIA — and any role by Brennan himself — in torture, abuse, secret prisons, and extraordinary rendition during his past tenure at the CIA, as well as can review the legal authorities for the targeted killing program that he has overseen in his current position. This nomination is too important to proceed without the Senate first knowing what happened during Brennan's tenures at the CIA and the White House, and whether all of his conduct was within the law.

John Brennan was rumored to be the president’s choice for CIA director in 2008, but was never nominated because of his record on torture. With his record, then and now, the United States intelligence gathering community could be on a slippery slope to paramilitarization under Brennan’s watch.