Slam Dunk’s Deputy: John Brennan’s “an Honest Guy”

This Mark Hosenball story is getting a lot of attention. It repeats earlier assertions–from Dianne Feinstein among others–about whether or not John Brennan opposed torture or not, with anonymous sources (one, a senior Administration official, who might not have means to know firsthand) arguing both sides.

Some former officials familiar with deliberations about the program said they don’t recall Brennan voicing objections to the use of harsh interrogation techniques.

But other former officials say Brennan was among agency officials who were uncomfortable with the use of physically coercive tactics, despite the legal opinions that supported their use. He expressed concern, according to these officials, that if details of the program became public, it would be CIA officers who would face criticism, rather than the politicians and lawyers who approved them.

[snip]

“Mr. Brennan had significant concerns and personal objections to many elements of the EIT (enhanced interrogation techniques) program while it was under way,” a senior administration official said in response to Reuters’ inquiries. “He voiced those objections privately with colleagues at the agency.”

But I’m most amused by one of the only on-the-record quotes in the piece, from George Tenet’s Deputy, John McLaughlin.

“If John says he expressed reservations about some techniques, I believe him because he’s an honest guy,” said John McLaughlin, who was deputy CIA director at the time.

John Brennan’s an honest guy. Sure.

The guy who said there were no civilian drone casualties.

The guy who implied all drone strikes are targeted at known people, pretending none are targeted at patterns of people whose identity remains unknown.

The guy who said Osama bin Laden shot at the team that ultimately killed him.

That guy.

I’ve got my concerns about John Brennan’s knowledge of–even his logistical involvement in–torture. But a far bigger concern, in my book, is that–like John McLaughlin’s boss, George “Slam Dunk” Tenet–he has lied to the American people, all the while hiding behind a claim of secrecy.

And so not only is it absurd to believe John Brennan opposed torture because he says so. It’s that–just 10 years after being lied into an illegal war–we’re even considering confirming a guy who has engaged in the same kind of lying that George Tenet used to help get us into that war.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

5 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    What, exactly, was Brennan concerned about, according to those who said he was concerned?

    But other former officials say Brennan was among agency officials who were uncomfortable with the use of physically coercive tactics, despite the legal opinions that supported their use. He expressed concern, according to these officials, that if details of the program became public, it would be CIA officers who would face criticism, rather than the politicians and lawyers who approved them.

    It’s not that he spoke up and said “this is torture” or “this is wrong” or “this doesn’t work”. His concern, according to these sources, was that if it got out, the CIA would look bad for following orders and the givers of orders would get a pass.

    If this is the best your supporters can do for you, perhaps it would be better if your supporters kept their mouths shut.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    It’s an almost Obama-like arrogance. These characters lie openly, brazenly, corruptly, and face not penalty or imprisonment, but reward and promotion. They are the only ones the national security state benefits.

  3. Arbusto says:

    @earlofhuntingdon: Sorry, but Obama LLC isn’t alone in its proclivity to lie and obfuscate. The halls of Congress, DoJ and DoD would be empty if only honesty and following the oath of office were a requirement instead of an option.

  4. P J Evans says:

    I’m really hoping for lightning to strike the hearing room. Or the halls of Congress. From inside. (Or maybe just something easy, like all of the liars spontaneously combusting during live coverage.)

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    @Arbusto: Agreed, but Mr. O has an unusual ability to lie to a listener who knows he’s lying, get away with it, and then internally dismiss his listener as a fool while being thanked for it. It’s what he does to his once most ardent followers, and to a lot of the Washington press corp(se). It’s one of his defining characteristics.

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