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during the transition, however because of his involvement with the Bush torture program the nomination was withdrawn and he began working in the White House close to the president.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]

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.