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.
In his 1980 graduate thesis at the University of Texas at Austin, John Brennan denied the existence of “absolute human rights” and argued in favor of censorship on the part of the Egyptian dictatorship.
- “Since the press can play such an influential role in determining the perceptions of the masses, I am in favor of some degree of government censorship,” Brennan wrote. “Inflamatory [sic] articles can provoke mass opposition and possible violence, especially in developing political systems.”
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." 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.||”|
Brennan told ABC, "Our review indicates that interrogations of detainees on whom EITs [enhanced interrogation techniques] were used did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives."
Brennan was Barack Obama's first choice for CIA Director in 2008 during the transition, however because of his close involvement with the pre-Obama torture program the nomination was withdrawn and he began working in the White House, close to the president.
Obama White House
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. 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. Brennan would be responsible for guarding against natural disasters and terrorism.
On September 21, 2010 an internal email entitled “Obama Leak Investigations” at the “global intelligence” company Stratfor claimed Obama’s White House adviser John Brennan was targeting journalists.
"Brennan is behind the witch hunts of investigative journalists learning information from inside the beltway sources,” writes one Stratfor official to another. The email continues: “Note —There is specific tasker from the [White House] to go after anyone printing materials negative to the Obama agenda (oh my.) Even the FBI is shocked. The Wonder Boys must be in meltdown mode…”
In April of 2010 Obama Attn. Gen. Eric Holder renewed a subpoena of New York Times reporter James Risen in a leak investigation. Risen and a colleague reported on warrantless wiretaps. The coverage won Risen and colleague a Pulitzer Prize for “carefully sourced stories on secret domestic eavesdropping that stirred a national debate.” The Justice Dept. opened an investigation into the wiretap stories. John Brennan played a key role in the illegal wiretap program, overseeing the production of what personnel in the program called the “scary memos” intended to justify the domestic spying exposed by Risen. Brennan later admitted that he relied on information from CIA’s torture program rather than domestic spying, which was used as a cover. In a frontpage May 13, 2004 story the torture program was exposed with Risen as the lead reporter. The subpeaona of Risen is viewed as retribution and an intimidation tactic against whistleblowers.
CIA torture program
In keeping Brennan on as a Bush holdover. President Obama wanted to allow Brennan to continue his work to find Osama bin Laden to enhance Obama's 2016 re-election prospects. Brennan was rewarded in Obama's second term with the appointment as CIA Director.
During "a profanity-laced screaming match at the White House" in August 2009 CIA Director Leon Panetta protested Obama's decision to create a team of interrogators overseen by the White House. Responsibility for interrogations of suspects was shifted away from the CIA, and the White House National Security Council staff given direct control. 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. 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.
The kill list
As Counterterrorism adviser, Brennan was the driving force behind the creation of the Disposition Matrix database to codify the targeted killing policies developed by Barack Obama. According to the New York Times, Brennan has been the "principal coordinator" of U.S. kill lists. Former Obama administration counterterrorism official Daniel Benjamin has stated that Brennan "probably had more power and influence than anyone in a comparable position in the last 20 years". The criteria and decisions determining who may be targeted for killing are developed in large part by John Brennan, who "wields enormous power in shaping decisions on 'kill' lists and the allocation of armed drones". Barack Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, joked about his collaboration with John Brennan: "I'm really good at killing people."
The World Socialist Web Site wrote that "the Obama administration has arrogated to itself the most extreme power that can be asserted by any dictatorship—that of ordering citizens put to death without presenting charges against them, much less proving them in a court of law". They later criticized the relative silence in the media and the political establishment following the revelation.
Obama's kill list has been criticized internationally as "targeted executions" and "extrajudicial murders." "[I]n essence, this means that based on intelligence evidence, the administration assumes the right to judge and execute anyone without bothering about such minor things as proper court hearings, or the right of the accused person for proper legal defense...the fact that such operations clearly violate the principles propagated by the U.S. itself, like the right of everyone for legal defense, does not seem to bother the administration." Speaking at Harvard Law School on 25 October 2012, United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter terrorism, Ben Emmerson, stated that he would launch an investigation unit within the United Nations Human Rights Council. Emmerson and Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, have described some Obama admimistraion targeted killings as war crimes.
Glenn Greenwald has written that "the central role played by the NCTC in determining who should be killed [is] rather odious... the NCTC operates a gigantic data-mining operation, in which all sorts of information about innocent Americans is systematically monitored, stored, and analyzed". Greenwald concludes that the Kill list has established "simultaneously a surveillance state and a secretive, unaccountable judicial body that analyzes who you are and then decrees what should be done with you, how you should be "disposed" of, beyond the reach of any minimal accountability or transparency". Former counterterrorism specialist and military intelligence officer Philip Giraldi has criticized the disposition matrix's "everyday" killing of targets with what he calls "little or no evidence", leaving the White House "completely unaccountable".
"And during a 25-year career in government, I was privileged to serve in positions across the Middle East — as a political officer with the State Department and as a CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, I saw how our Saudi partners fulfilled their duty as custodians of the two holy mosques of Mecca and Medina. I marveled at the majesty of the Hajj and the devotion of those who fulfilled their duty as Muslims by making that privilege — that pilgrimage."
He planted stories with the New York Times Cairo bureau chief David Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick wrote a controversial article whitewashing the Benghazi attack and repeatedly pushed a pro-Muslim Brotherhood agenda, according to his wife.
Hacking Senate Oversight Committee
Sixty documents disappear from the computers of the Senate Intelligence Oversight Torture Review investigation. Chairwoman Feinstein said that CIA personnel at first denied that the documents were missing, then blamed the IT contractors, then informed her it was at the behest of the White House.
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. On January 12, the BBC suggested that the investigation of the Trump campaign was orchestrated by CIA Director John Brennan. "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.
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.
On January 5, the Office of National Intelligence issued a report written by Brennan entitled, "Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections.” 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. These developments were followed by a series of leaks that disregarded privacy rights.
Trump reacted to the smears tweeting,
- "I win an election easily, a great "movement" is verified, and crooked opponents try to belittle our victory with FAKE NEWS. A sorry state! … Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”
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.
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.” 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." 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, 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!"
"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." 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.
Obama and his director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. as well as the head of the FBI have denied that this happened. "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. In turn, Trump called for a congressional investigation of the alleged wiretapping.
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.
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.” The committee has a deadline of March 20.
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." 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.
- Obamagate timeline
- Obamagate timeline 2009-2015
- Barack Hussein Obama's unlawful acts
- Obama's second term agenda
- Barack Obama Controversies
- Extraordinary rendition
- Abu Ghraib prison
- Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp
- Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb
- Crisis in Ukraine
- Susan Rice
- Heinrich Himmler
- List of Obama's Czars, GlennBeck.com, August 21, 2009.
- The Early Show on CBS, John Brennan interview with Harry Smith. 
- ABC News. CIA Pushes Back on Assertion That It Overstated Intelligence From Detention Program. ABC News.
- John Brennan and Bush’s interrogation/detention policies, Examining the actual record of Obama's top adviser for intelligence policy, By Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com, Nov 16, 2008.
- John Brennan for CIA? Think Again, Scott Horton, Harper's Magazine, November 24, 2008.
- 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.
- Rise of the Czars, FOXNews.com, June 9th, 2009.
- Credit:Sharyl Attkisson. https://wikileaks.org/gifiles/docs/12/1210665_obama-leak-investigations-internal-use-only-pls-do-not.html
- 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.
- White House To Oversee New Interrogation Team, Dina Temple-Raston, npr.org August 24, 2009.
- 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.
- National Security Council Reloaded, J. E. Dyer, Commentary blog, 08.25.2009.
- Tower Commission Report, p. 13.
- ACLU Urges Congress to Examine White House National Security Council as Central Decision-Maker on Torture, ACLU Press Release, (6/10/2008).
- By Nominating John Brennan, Obama is Ignoring War Crimes, Glenn Greenwald, NY Times, January 8, 2013.
- "Drone Strikes’ Dangers to Get Rare Moment in Public Eye", 5 February 2013.
- Washington Post
- Error on call to template:cite news: Parameters archiveurl and archivedate must be both specified or both omittedVan Auken, Bill. "Institutionalized state assassinations and the November 6 election", 26 October 2012.
- Error on call to template:cite news: Parameters archiveurl and archivedate must be both specified or both omittedKishore, Joseph. "American democracy and the "disposition matrix"", 31 October 2012.
- Error on call to template:cite news: Parameters archiveurl and archivedate must be both specified or both omitted"Kill-list 2.0: Obama’s ‘disposition matrix’ maps out extrajudicial murders for years to come", 24 October 2012.
- Error on call to template:cite news: Parameters archiveurl and archivedate must be both specified or both omittedVolkhonsky, Boris. "Barack Obama widens the practice of extrajudicial killings", Voice of Russia, 26 October 2012.
- Error on call to template:cite news: Parameters archiveurl and archivedate must be both specified or both omitted"United Nations to begin investigating US drone strike targeted kills", 26 October 2012.
- Drone strikes threaten 50 years of international law, says UN rapporteur, Owen Bowcott, The Guardian, 21 June 2012
- Error on call to template:cite news: Parameters archiveurl and archivedate must be both specified or both omittedGreenwald, Glenn. "Obama moves to make the War on Terror permanent", 24 October 2012.
- Error on call to template:cite news: Parameters archiveurl and archivedate must be both specified or both omittedGiraldi, Philip. "Kill Lists Will Continue", Antiwar.com, 8 November 2012.
- The Protocols for Death, by Philip Giraldi, Antiwar.com, 06 December 2012
- "EXCLUSIVE: FBI ‘Granted FISA Warrant’ Covering Trump Camp’s Ties To Russia," Heat Street, Nov. 7, 2016.
- "All Roads Lead Back to Brennan," American Spectator, March 6, 2017
- "Trump 'compromising' claims: How and why did we get here?", BBC, Jan. 12, 2017.
- "BOMBSHELL: Fox News Sources Say Obama Used Brits To Spy On Donald Trump.", DailyWire, March 14, 2017.
- The declassified version is "Background to “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections”: The Analytic Process and Cyber Incident Attribution"
- 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.
- "FBI, 5 other agencies probe possible covert Kremlin aid to Trump", McClatchy, January 18, 2017.
- "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.”
- "Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking," New York Times, March 1, 2017.
- "Mark Levin to Congress: Investigate Obama’s ‘Silent Coup’ vs. Trump", Breitbart, 3 Mar 2017.
- https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump, March 4, 2017
- Dionne Jr., EJ. "The Trump Experiment may come to an early tipping point", Washington Post, March 5, 2017.
- "New York Times Trashes Its Own Reporting on Obama Admin Wiretapping, Breitbart, 5 Mar 2017.
- Kailani Koenig, "Former DNI James Clapper: ‘I Can Deny’ Wiretap of Trump Tower", NBC News, MAR 5 2017
- Statement from the Press Secretary (March 5, 2017).
- "Trump won’t accept Comey’s conclusion about Obama wiretap claim", New York Post, March 6, 2017.
- "Senators Graham And Whitehouse Request Warrant Applications And Court Orders Related To Possible Wiretapping Of President Trump, Trump Campaign, Or Trump Tower"
- "Trump administration wants more time to give Intel committee wiretapping proof", The Hill, 03/13/17.
- "Meet Executive Order 12333: The Reagan rule that lets the NSA spy on Americans", Washington Post, July 18, 2014.
- "N.S.A. Gets More Latitude to Share Intercepted Communications", New York Times, Jan. 12, 2017.
- Warning: These photographs are quite graphic!
-  Salon.com Abu Ghraib Photo Archives