John Brennan

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John Brennan with President Obama. Brennan was an advocate for the U.S. Government's torture program.

John Brennan served as the "Terrorism Czar," sometimes called "Homeland Security Czar," but with the formal title as Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism in the Obama Administration.[1][2] Appointed in January 2009, Brennan reported to National Security Adviser James L. Jones. Under President Obama's plan, the homeland security adviser’s office would be eliminated, and the National Security Council would take over those duties.[2] Brennan would be responsible for guarding against natural disasters and terrorism.


John Brennan graduated from Fordham University in 1977 after a year of intensive Arabic and Middle Eastern studies in Cairo. He earned his J.D. from the University of Texas at Austin before joining the Central Intelligence Agency as an intelligence director in 1980. He is a CIA veteran and fluent Arabic speaker.[2]

Bush administration torture program

John Brennan was the CIA deputy executive director from 2001 to 2003. Brennan is known to be a staunch supporter of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Program, and has defended the use of extraordinary rendition, saying it is "an absolutely vital tool."[2] He was previously director of the National Counter-Terrorism Center from 2004 through 2005. Brennan also worked at Analysis Corp, from 2005 to 2008.

On November 2, 2007, Brennan defended the Bush/Cheney torture program:

the C.I.A. has acknowledged that it has detained about 100 terrorists since 9/11, and about a third of them have been subjected to what the C.I.A. 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 ... There have 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.[3]

Obama White House

Brennan was Barack Obama's first choice for CIA Director in 2008[4][5][6] during the transition, however because of his involvement with the Bush torture program the nomination was withdrawn and he began working in the White House close to the president.

During "a profanity-laced screaming match at the White House" in August 2009[7] CIA Director Leon Panetta protested Obama's decision to create a team of interrogators overseen by the White House.[8] Responsibility for interrogations of suspects was shifted away from the CIA, and the White House National Security Council staff given direct control.[9] Brennan was placed in charge of the program.

Unlike executive departments and agencies such as the Department of Justice, FBI, and CIA, the National Security Council staff are not subject to Congressional oversight, and operate outside the spotlight of public view.[10][11] The American Civil Liberties Union made this point during the elections of 2008 when the George W. Bush NSC staff was involved only in decisions and authorizations and before the Obama NSC staff took on an operational role.[12]

After some successful operations such as the Abbottabad raid, Obama re-nominated Brennan to take over CIA in 2013.[13]

Wiretapping the 2016 election

The Obama administration's wiretaps against the Trump campaign were first reported by the British news site Heat Street on November 7, 2016.[14] On January 12, the BBC suggested that the investigation of the Trump campaign was orchestrated by CIA Director John Brennan.[15] "Their first application, in June, was rejected outright by the judge. They returned with a more narrowly drawn order in July and were rejected again. Finally, before a new judge, the order was granted, on 15 October, three weeks before election day," according to the BBC.[16]

The fact that the early leaks appeared in the British press suggests that the source might have been British intelligence. The National Security Agency may share data with GCHQ, a British intelligence agency, to evade U.S. legal restrictions regarding the handling of such data.[17]

On January 5, the Office of National Intelligence issued a report entitled, "Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections.”[18] The report renewed interest in allegations of Russian interference. In the last days of the Obama administration, procedures were revised to give more analysts access to the raw data.[19] These developments were followed by a series of leaks that disregarded privacy rights.

On January 17, McClatchy reported that an informal, interagency group had been working for months on the issue of Russian attempts to influence the the election. The group included representatives of the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and the office of the director of national intelligence.[20]

On January 20, The New York Times reported that the White House was directly involved in the investigation: “… wiretapped communications had been provided to the (Obama) White House.”[21] On March 1, the Times reported that the FBI was in the midst of a "wide-ranging investigation" of "links between Mr. Trump’s associates and the Russian government."[22] Although Trump had been president for six weeks at this point, the FBI was still being run by Director James Comey, who had been appointed by Obama.

On March 2, 2017, talk radio host Mark Levin denounced the wiretaps and accused Obama of attempting a "silent coup" against Trump. Levin was chief of staff of the Justice Department during the Reagan administration. Earlier liberal reporting on the issue emphasized Trump's alleged links to Russia and used the wiretapping to support the idea that the intelligence community took these accusations seriously. Levin shifted the focus to malfeasance by the intelligence community.

Prompted by a Breitbart article summarizing Levin's broadcast,[23] Trump posted a series of tweets on March 4:

"How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!"[24]


"Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!"

Members of the mainstream media called Trump's wiretapping claim an, "astonishing and reckless accusation."[25] In particular, the suggestion that Obama was personally involved provoked a furious backlash. Yet this suggestion is supported by earlier reporting, including the Times account of January 20.[26]

Obama and his director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. as well as the head of the FBI have denied that this happened.[25] "There was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president, the president-elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign," Clapper told NBC.[27] In turn, Trump called for a congressional investigation of the alleged wiretapping.[28]

On March 6, 2017, deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that Trump does not accept FBI Director James Comey’s conclusion that former President Barack Obama did not order a wiretap at Trump Tower.[29]

On March 8, U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), the chair and ranking member of the relevant Senate oversight committee, requested that "the Department of Justice provide us copies of any warrant applications and court orders...related to wiretaps of President Trump, the Trump Campaign, or Trump Tower.”[30] The committee has a deadline of March 20.[31]

According to Executive Order 12333 issued by President Ronald Reagan in December 1981, "Elements of the Intelligence Community are authorized to collect, retain, or disseminate information concerning United States persons...obtained in the course of a lawful foreign intelligence, counterintelligence, international drug or international terrorism investigation." Thus the U.S. intelligence community can perform surveillance without a warrant as long as the target of the investigation is, at least nominally, something other than a "U.S. person."[32] Under previous presidents, this provision applied only to the National Security Agency. In the last days of the Obama administration, access to surveillance data was expanded to encompass all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies.[33]

See also


  1. Rise of the Czars,, June 9th, 2009.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 List of Obama's Czars,, August 21, 2009.
  3. The Early Show on CBS, John Brennan interview with Harry Smith. [1]
  4. John Brennan and Bush’s interrogation/detention policies, Examining the actual record of Obama's top adviser for intelligence policy, By Glenn Greenwald,, Nov 16, 2008.
  5. John Brennan for CIA? Think Again, Scott Horton, Harper's Magazine, November 24, 2008.
  6. What's Behind Brennan's Withdrawal? Some former spies say left-leaning bloggers and columnists drove John Brennan out of consideration for CIA director, Shane Harris, National Journal Magazine, Dec. 6, 2008.
  7. Obama White House v. CIA; Panetta Threatened to Quit Tensions Lead to CIA Director's "Screaming Match" at the White House, Matthew Cole, Richard Espisito, and Brian Ross, ABC News, August 24, 2009.
  8. White House To Oversee New Interrogation Team, Dina Temple-Raston, August 24, 2009.
  9. New Unit to Question Key Terror Suspects - Move Shifts Interrogation Oversight From the CIA to the White House, Anne E. Kornblut, Washington Post, August 24, 2009.
  10. National Security Council Reloaded, J. E. Dyer, Commentary blog, 08.25.2009.
  11. Tower Commission Report, p. 13.
  12. ACLU Urges Congress to Examine White House National Security Council as Central Decision-Maker on Torture, ACLU Press Release, (6/10/2008).
  13. By Nominating John Brennan, Obama is Ignoring War Crimes, Glenn Greenwald, NY Times, January 8, 2013.
  14. "EXCLUSIVE: FBI ‘Granted FISA Warrant’ Covering Trump Camp’s Ties To Russia," Heat Street, Nov. 7, 2016.
  15. "All Roads Lead Back to Brennan," American Spectator, March 6, 2017
  16. "Trump 'compromising' claims: How and why did we get here?", BBC, Jan. 12, 2017.
  17. "BOMBSHELL: Fox News Sources Say Obama Used Brits To Spy On Donald Trump.", DailyWire, March 14, 2017.
  18. The declassified version is "Background to “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections”: The Analytic Process and Cyber Incident Attribution"
  19. Saagar Enjeti, "How Are All These Intel Leaks Happening? Look At One Of The Last Things Obama Did Before Leaving Office," Daily Caller, 03/09/2017.
  20. "FBI, 5 other agencies probe possible covert Kremlin aid to Trump", McClatchy, January 18, 2017.
  21. "Wiretapped data used in inquiry of Trump aides; Examining Russian Ties; Business dealings of Campaign Advisers are investigated." New York Times, January 20, 2017. On the NYT website, the headline is given as “Intercepted Russian Communications Part of Inquiry Into Trump Associates.”
  22. "Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking," New York Times, March 1, 2017.
  23. "Mark Levin to Congress: Investigate Obama’s ‘Silent Coup’ vs. Trump", Breitbart, 3 Mar 2017.
  24., March 4, 2017
  25. 25.0 25.1 Dionne Jr., EJ. "The Trump Experiment may come to an early tipping point", Washington Post, March 5, 2017. Retrieved on March 5, 2017. 
  26. "New York Times Trashes Its Own Reporting on Obama Admin Wiretapping, Breitbart, 5 Mar 2017.
  27. Kailani Koenig, "Former DNI James Clapper: ‘I Can Deny’ Wiretap of Trump Tower", NBC News, MAR 5 2017
  28. Statement from the Press Secretary (March 5, 2017). Retrieved on March 7, 2017.
  29. "Trump won’t accept Comey’s conclusion about Obama wiretap claim", New York Post, March 6, 2017. Retrieved on March 7, 2017. 
  30. "Senators Graham And Whitehouse Request Warrant Applications And Court Orders Related To Possible Wiretapping Of President Trump, Trump Campaign, Or Trump Tower"
  31. "Trump administration wants more time to give Intel committee wiretapping proof", The Hill, 03/13/17.
  32. "Meet Executive Order 12333: The Reagan rule that lets the NSA spy on Americans", Washington Post, July 18, 2014.
  33. "N.S.A. Gets More Latitude to Share Intercepted Communications", New York Times, Jan. 12, 2017.

External links

Warning: These photographs are quite graphic!
  • [2] Abu Ghraib Photo Archives