Hate to Tell SSCI I Told Them So, John Brennan Lying and Spying Edition

The morning of John Brennan’s confirmation hearing, I posted what I deemed the 5 most important questions to ask him. Three were: Will you stop lying, how much of Dick Cheney’s illegal wiretap program did you run, and will you permit CIA to spy on Americans.

1) Do you plan to continue lying to Americans?

You have made a number of demonstrable lies to the American people, particularly regarding the drone program and the Osama bin Laden raid. Most egregiously in 2011, you claimed “there hasn’t been a single collateral death” in almost a year from drone strikes; when challenged, you revised that by saying, “the U.S. government has not found credible evidence of collateral deaths,” even in spite of a particularly egregious case of civilian deaths just months earlier. On what basis did you make these assertions? What definition of civilian were you using in each assertion? (More background)

In addition, in a speech purportedly offering transparency on the drone program, you falsely suggested we know the identities of all people targeted by drones. Why did you choose to misrepresent the kind of intelligence we use in some strikes?

[snip]

4) What role did you have in Bush’s illegal wiretap program?The joint Inspector General report on the illegal wiretap program reported that entities you directed — the Terrorist Threat Integration Center in 2003 and 2004, and the National Counterterrorism Center in 2004 and 2005 — conducted the threat assessments for the program.

What role did you have, as the head of these entities, in the illegal wiretapping of Americans? To what extent did you know the program violated FISA? What role did you have in counseling Obama to give telecoms and other contractors immunity under the program? What influence did you have in DOJ decisions regarding suits about the illegal program, in particular the al-Haramain case that was thrown out even after the charity had proved it had been illegally wiretapped? Did you play any role in decisions to investigate and prosecute whistleblowers about this and other programs, notably Thomas Drake? (More background)

5) Did you help CIA bypass prohibitions on spying domestically with the NYPD intelligence (and other) programs?

In your additional prehearing questions, you admit to knowing about CIA’s role in setting up an intelligence program that profiled Muslims in New York City. What was your role in setting up the program? As someone with key oversight over personnel matters at the time, did you arrange Larry Sanchez’ temporary duty at the NYPD or CIA training for NYPD detectives?

Have you been involved in any similar effort to use CIA resources to conduct domestic spying on communities of faith? You said the CIA provides (among other things) expertise to local groups spying on Americans. How is this not a violation of the prohibition on CIA spying on Americans?  (More background)

As it turns out, all three questions are directly pertinent for the latest dust-up between SSCI and the CIA Director.

Tensions between the CIA and its congressional overseers erupted anew this week when CIA Director John Brennan refused to tell lawmakers who authorized intrusions into computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to compile a damning report on the spy agency’s interrogation program.

The confrontation, which took place during a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, came as the sides continue to spar over the report’s public release, providing further proof of the unprecedented deterioration in relations between the CIA and Capitol Hill.

After the meeting, several senators were so incensed at Brennan that they confirmed the row and all but accused the nation’s top spy of defying Congress.

“I’m concerned there’s disrespect towards the Congress,” Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who also serves as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told McClatchy. “I think it’s arrogant, I think it’s unacceptable.”

And you know what, Senator Levin? Brennan doesn’t actually care what you think. This Committee confirmed him last year, at a point where it was already clear he would lie and spy if he thought it would help the CIA. That was the moment to win respect from Brennan.

But at this point — especially because it seems Brennan has confidence his boss won’t fire him — he knows he can get away with this.

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 Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, 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 in Grand Rapids, MI.

15 replies
    • orionATL says:

      right on! leak the whole report and let the press shove it down brennan’s throat as they point to his incompetence in cia program after program from his days in saudi arabia forword.

      the insubordination of brennan, clapper, and alexander is breathtaking. it’s too bad for the nation obama never had a father to raise him.

      • Bill Michtom says:

        So, Obama is a tool of the “national security” state because he had no father? What’s everyone else’s excuse?

        • orionATL says:

          an ignorant reaction on your part,michtom. i was speaking of interpersonal relations between close assosiates. my comment is well in line with human behavior. that you can’t see that reflects your lack of insight.

    • Peterr says:

      It’s not a leak if you read it into the record of proceedings of the Senate of the United States. It’s constitutionally protected debate.

      After the meeting, several senators were so incensed at Brennan that they confirmed the row and all but accused the nation’s top spy of defying Congress.

      “I’m concerned there’s disrespect towards the Congress,” Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who also serves as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told McClatchy. “I think it’s arrogant, I think it’s unacceptable.”

      There’s a solution to that, Senator. Give up the “all but accuse him” and formally accuse him. Read the report into the record. Call him out in public debate. Recite the lies he told behind closed doors, and refute them with the facts. Shame him, embarrass him, and hold him up to ridicule.
      .
      Unless this is done publicly by a member of the United States Senate, Brennan will continue to lie, continue to dissemble, and continue to disrespect both the Senate and the People of the United States.
      .
      Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice . . .

      • TarheelDem says:

        I like that. Mr. Brennan should be held in contempt of this body for (1), (2), (3)… I ask consent to read my remaining remarks into the record (text of Torture Report). If no consent, start reading the most outrageous parts of the report naming names and dates…..

      • wallace says:

        quote”After the meeting, several senators were so incensed at Brennan that they confirmed the row and all but accused the nation’s top spy of defying Congress.”unquote

        Incensed defined:

        quote“I’m concerned there’s disrespect towards the Congress,” Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who also serves as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told McClatchy. “I think it’s arrogant, I think it’s unacceptable.”unquote

        Disrespect towards Congress. Arrogant. Unacceptable.
        right.

        BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…HOHOHOHOHOHOHO ..HAHAHAHHAHA !!!!!

        Says Senator Ethics Be Damned whose younger sister beat him up daily for being a cowardly schmuck.

        http://www.campaignfreedom.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Senate-Ethics-Complaint-Final-No-Pages-Signature.pdf

        Notwithstanding his laughable response to Brennan’s defiant mockery of Congress, I have $5 that says Levin called Brennan and apologized. You know..just in case he hurt Brennan’s wittle feelings.

  1. scribe says:

    You would think that these doofuses, having been on Capitol Hill as long as they have, would have figured out how to do this negotiating thing.

    I guess not.

  2. ess emm says:

    Just click on Brennan’s name in the tag cloud to the right—you’ll find ew has written over 300 articles on that slug just since 2009. You’ll find no better record on the intertubes of the slimy trail he’s left. It’s a dirty job, but it has to be done. Thank you for the great reporting, ew! You understand that guy better than anyone.

  3. ArizonaBumblebeeper says:

    There is one solution to this problem that everyone is overlooking, and it would force the entire issue into the open: impeach Mr. Brennan and then ask the pertinent questions in his Senate trial. Of course, that would require that our congressmen and senators uphold their oaths to protect the Constitution, and I remain highly skeptical they have the guts to do it. Another option would have the President fire Mr. Brennan for his actions, but that assumes the President hadn’t signed onto the operation they’re trying to uncover, which may not be true.

    Some of the commentators have suggested a senator could use the approach used by Senator Gravel, who read portions of the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record. I may be wrong, but I thought I read somewhere that the Senate changed its rules after that incident, making it difficult for a senator to do something like this.

    America is at an historic crossroad. We have a president who thinks he can go to war with ISIS without congressional authorization and can get away with having one of his top assistants telling the Senate to go to hell. This is beyond Nixon territory and puts America on the road to tyranny. During the Obama and Bush II presidencies we have seen Caesarism openly asserted and an increasingly supine, corrupt, and ineffective Congress on display. I guess that is what America gets when its elected representatives have been bought and paid for by various interest groups.

    • TarheelDem says:

      I remain highly skeptical they have the guts to do it.

      Here is the procedural maze. The impeachment would have to start in the Republican-controlled House who are fine with intelligence community overreach just as long as they get to share some of the information. Moreover they want to ensure that the President does absolutely nothing at all during his eight years (except their own policies) to ensure the public never gets an alternative. A whole lot of House Democrats are down with that agenda as well. None of the mice are up to belling the cat. And it is more a matter of personal self-interest than lack of courage; they are courageously following their personal self-interest in the face of mounting public outrage.

      We have a president who thinks he can go to war with ISIS without congressional authorization

      It is actually worse than that. We have a Congress that if it got down to authorizing war in the Middle East would outdo each other in turning the authorization into a permanent declaration of war everywhere in order to show that they are tougher than the other party on national defense. And to ensure that the national security and intelligence community contractor grift and graft is expanded with no new taxes. Guess what gets squeezed? And might get squeezed anyway? Is runaway Congressional authorization better or worse than a President who refuses to get Congressional authorization. Which way would you like the current 20-year-old Constitutional crisis to play out?

      We are well down the road to tyranny because of the national security architecture that Harry Truman put into place, Ike warned about, the Church Committee and Pike Committee investigatied, and Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman fed steroids. The arc of tyranny is very long but it leads to James Clapper and John Brennan and Keith Alexander (although he’s out rallying the “private” sector).

      Most progressive commentary that I’ve seen on Brennan’s blowing off of the SSCI describes the feeling of headlights shining at the end of a box canyon. And most calls for action of one sort or another end up concluding TiNA–There is No Alternative.

      Is that right? Are we indeed at the end?

  4. TopAssistant says:

    The Obama administration is maladministration, a corrupt and incompetent administration. However, when it comes to knowing our enemy, ALL administrations have failed us.
    Who said this, to whom, when, why and what have we ever done about it? Would you consider this statement to be contrary to our Constitution, our way of life, a danger to our National/Homeland Security and the preservation of our Constitution?

    Would you think these are words of an enemy? Surely, both the House and Senate studied this but where are the reports?
    “The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the Laws of their prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every musselman [muslim] who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.”

    This statement was a part of a March 28, 1786, letter from John Adams and Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, the United States Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Continental Congress, concerning their conversation with Tripoli’s to London, Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdrahaman as to why his pirates/terrorists hijacked our merchant ships, stole the ships and cargo while holding the sailors for ransom. (Source: Founders Archives http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-09-02-0315

    Why are we failing to mention the obvious issues in the 1786 letter that still exists today? Here are the main points in 1786; are they the same today with the Muslim Brotherhood in America and their plan they wrote to destroy us?
    a. “it was founded on the Laws of their prophet”;
    b. “that it was written in their Koran”;
    c. “that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners”;
    d. “that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and”;
    e. “to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and”;
    f. “that every musselman [muslim] who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.”
    g. “that it was a law that the first who boarded an Enemy’s Vessell should have one slave more than his share with the rest”;
    h. “which operated as an incentive to the most desperate Valour and Enterprize;
    i. “that it was the Practice of their Corsairs to bear down upon a ship;
    j. for each sailor to take a dagger in each hand, and another in his mouth, and leap on board, which so terrified their Enemies that very few ever stood against them.”
    k. “That he verily believed the Devil assisted his Countrymen, for they were almost always successful.

    Is this a Caliphate?

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