Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Meet the new boss - torture and wiretap edition (updated below)

The [Obama/Biden] intelligence-transition team is led by former National Counterterrorism Center chief John Brennan and former CIA intelligence-analysis director Jami Miscik, say officials close to the matter. Mr. Brennan is viewed as a potential candidate for a top intelligence post.
Wall Street Journal "Intelligence Policy to Stay Largely Intact," 11/11/2008

BRENNAN: Well, the CIA has acknowledged that it has detained about 100 terrorists since 9/11, and about a third of them have been subjected to what the CIA refers to as "enhanced interrogation tactics." And only a small proportion of those have, in fact, been subjected to the most serious types of enhanced procedures.

SMITH: And you say some of this has born fruit.

BRENNAN: 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 hardcore 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 death of 3,000 innocents.

SMITH: John Brennan, we thank you very, very much for enlightening us this morning. We really do appreciate it.

John Brennan on the CBS Early Show, 11/2/2007

Q: Assess the debate in Congress and with the administration over reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. [Democratic lawmakers allowed the temporary extension of that law, the Protect America Act, to expire, over the vehement objections of the White House.] Why has it come to this point where politics has arguably pulled things off the rails?

Brennan: There is this great debate over whether or not the telecom companies should in fact be given immunity for their agreement to provide support and cooperate with the government after 9/11. I do believe strongly that they should be granted that immunity, because they were told to do so by the appropriate authorities that were operating in a legal context, and so I think that's important. And I know people are concerned about that, but I do believe that's the right thing to do.

Insider Interview John Brennan, National Journal 3/7/2008

Frontline: You were involved in creating the terrorist watch list through the NCTC, right? ... Does it work?

Brennan: It works, I think, very well.

Frontline "The Enemy Within"

The government's centralized terrorist watch list passed the 900,000 name mark this month, according to the ACLU, which estimated the new total by relying on Congressional testimony from the fall that the sprawling list was growing by 20,000 names a month.
Wired 2/27/2008

Update: (h/t Talkleft)

John Brennan, President-elect Barack Obama's top adviser on intelligence, took his name out of the running Tuesday for any intelligence position in the new administration

Brennan wrote in a Nov. 25 letter to Obama that he did not want to be a distraction. His potential appointment has raised a firestorm in liberal blogs that associate him with the Bush administration's interrogation, detention and rendition policies.

An Obama adviser said Brennan made the decision to withdraw on his own and that he will remain heavily involved in the transition. The adviser is not authorized to discuss internal deliberations so asked not to be named.

However, a group of about 200 psychologists published an open letter to Obama on Nov. 22 opposing Brennan's leadership of the CIA. They cited several media interviews in which they deemed Brennan insufficiently opposed to rendition and harsh interrogation to make a clean break with the Bush administration's policies.

They noted that he told the National Journal in March that he would favor "continuity" in intelligence policies in the early days of the Obama administration.

"I would argue for continuity in those early stages. You don't want to whipsaw the (intelligence) community," Brennan said. "I'm hoping there will be a number of professionals coming in who have an understanding of the evolution of the capabilities in the community over the past six years, because there is a method to how things have changed and adapted," he said.

In a 2005 interview on "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," Brennan defended rendition as "an absolutely vital tool."

National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell in 2007 had Brennan on a short list to become his principal deputy director, the second-highest position at the organization.

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