A Times article yesterday reported on Brennan’s confirmation hearing. In response to questions about his role in the CIA’s torture program during the Bush administration, Brennan is quoted as having said “I don’t know what the facts are or what the truth is.” Brennan, who served as deputy executive director at that point in his career, opined that parts of the 6000+ page Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s torture program “made him question his entire understanding about the program.” Brennan defended his ignorance of the program by stating that he was not part of that particular “chain of command”.
It should alarm readers that the former deputy executive director of the CIA claims to have had no idea what was going on at his department with regards to the torture program. Melvin Goodman criticized Brennan’s supposed ignorance on yesterday’s broadcast of Democracy Now:
He was the agency. He was on the seventh floor of the agency. He was an executive assistant to the director and to the executive secretary of the CIA. He was the one they allowed to go on Sunday morning talk shows to defend renditions, and particularly extraordinary renditions, which involve not only kidnapping people off the streets of Europe and the Middle East and Africa, but sending them to countries where we knew these people would be tortured.
So, this is very reminiscent of Bob Gates in Iran-Contra 20 years ago when he was confirmed, when he said he really knew nothing about it and it wasn’t within his level of competence. I think we’ve learned from past experience that you have to scrutinize these statements very carefully. And I think Brennan was playing games with the committee, and the committee was very willing to play along with John Brennan.
As Goodman explains, Brennan is also the architect of the drone program:
[Brennan] has written the manual for targeted killings. He’s written the disposition matrix, which is something out of George Orwell, that allows the president of the United States to pick targets based on evidence that Brennan collects from the CIA, presumably the same kind of evidence that was taken to the country in 2002 and 2003 that allowed the United States to go to war [emphasis own]. So, all of this is extremely disturbing about who Brennan is.
I wrote briefly about the intelligence aspect of drone strikes yesterday here.
Brennan has expressed a commitment to revealing when US drone strikes mistakenly kill civilians, but according to Senator Feinstein his department is claiming civilian casualties is in the single-digits annually. In a striking example of blind faith, Feinstein, when asked why she would trust the agency now considering her previous accusations that the CIA was lying about it’s torture program, replied “I am confident of those figures until I am not confident of them.” In response to the Danger Room’s questioning of the same issue, Feinstein replied: “That’s a good question, actually…that’s a good question.” She followed that up by saying she “felt the CIA wasn’t ‘defensive’ of the drones in the way it was defensive of the torture program.”
Senator Feinstein is of course, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the committee responsible for vetting Brennan before his confirmation as director of the CIA. Her colleague on the committee Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) commented that while he hadn’t seen the numbers Feinstein was referring to, he was in the business of “trust[ing] but verify[ing].”