The Seduction of John Brennan’s “Moral Rectitude”


As has been floated over the last few days, Obama will reportedly appoint John Brennan CIA Director later today.

FWIW, having John Brennan in a position where he will be subject to Congressional oversight–rather than the oversight-free and more expansive position he’s in now–might not be an entirely bad thing. And after the DiFi-Jose Rodriguez smackdown, I’m not sad to see Morell get passed over, because I don’t think he has sufficient independence from people like Rodriguez.

Nevertheless, this appointment no doubt will lead to (already has) a bunch of people suggesting John Brennan will bring new order to the drone program.

I’m actually far more worried about Brennan’s control over other programs, particularly profiling Americans (though NCTC owns much of that task now). Remember, in addition to having ties to torture, Brennan was in charge of profiling for Dick Cheney’s illegal wiretap program. And he’s the guy who decided it’d be great to give the NCTC unfettered access to any federal database. This man loves data mining, and we should expect to see more of it from the CIA.

But I’m amused that people believe–based on anonymous claims by Brennan supporters–that he’ll bring order to the drone program. Such belief, it seems to me, overlooks Brennan’s actions in favor of anonymous comments.

Brennan was purportedly putting more order to the program. Until Mitt lost, and then he stalled that effort and broke what rules are said to govern the program.

Brennan was purportedly opposed to signature strikes. Until he approved them for use in Yemen.

Brennan has had control over all aspects of the drone program for 8 months. But the drone program is, if anything, accelerating again.

And remember, Brennan is a liar. A proven liar on this and a number of other issues. As well as a key instigator for the self-interested leaking the Administration would criminally punish coming from others. He spends a great deal of energy telling useful but not factually accurate stories to spin the Administration’s counterterrorism programs.

So I can’t help but think the people hailing his “moral rectitude” have been seduced by an old spook. Because every story that claims Brennan has some kind of higher ethics or a plan to put order to our out-of-control CT programs is either followed–or has the proof within itself–that the moral rectitude is the PR, whereas the embrace of unchecked power seems to be backed by his actions.

6 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    Sounds very much like Obama is getting exactly what he wants, then. Obama uses lofty moral rhetoric about transparency, ending torture, accountability, etc on the one hand, but his actions tell a rather different story. Given that, Brennan is a fine match.

  2. GKJames says:

    It’s always unclear in the Washington sandbox whether public utterances are part of a con or simple muddleheadedness. “[O]rder to the drone program” mischaracterizes the issue. (Himmler’s program, too, had order . . . lots of it.). Killing people on secret, un-cross-examined “evidence” will remain an issue (for some) as long as the US keeps doing it and irrespective of where Brennan — the nation’s serial bullshitter — sits Monday to Friday. All sitting in Langley will do is give him a more bucolic setting in which to spin his phony pieties.

  3. Peterr says:

    This man loves data mining, and we should expect to see more of it from the CIA.

    How often, do you suppose, will the word “minimization” be used when asking Brennan about data mining during his confirmation hearings?

    I’m guessing “not often enough” will be the right answer.

  4. emptywheel says:

    @Peterr: My bet is on zero. Because they’re only going to come from Wyden and Udall, and I expect them to focus on different issues.

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