Wyden et al: Spot the Lie in Brennan’s CFR Speech Contest!

As the Daily Dot reported, Senators Wyden, Heinrich, and Hirono wrote John Brennan a letter trying to get him to admit that he lied about hacking the Senate Intelligence Committee.

But, as often happens with Wyden-authored letters, they also included this oblique paragraph at the end:

Additionally, we are attaching a separate classified letter regarding inaccurate public statements that you made on another topic in March 2015. We ask that you correct the public record regarding these statements immediately.

A game!!! Find the lies Brennan told in March!!!

The most likely place to look for Brennan lies comes in this appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations, where Brennan took questions from the audience.

While you might think Brennan lied about outsourcing torture to our allies, his answer on CIA involvement with interrogations conducted by our partners was largely truthful, even if he left out the part of detainees being tortured in custody.

But on a related issue, Brennan surely lied. He claimed — in response to a questions from an HRW staffer — not to partner with those who commit atrocities.

QUESTION: I’m going to try to stand up. Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch. Two days ago, ABC News ran some video and images of psychopathic murderers, thugs in the Iraqi security forces, carrying out beheadings, executions of children, executions of civilians. Human Rights Watch has documented Iraqi militias carrying out ISIS-like atrocities, executions of hundreds of captives and so forth.

And some of the allies in the anti-ISIS coalition are themselves carrying out ISIS-like atrocities, like beheadings in Saudi Arabia, violent attacks on journalists in Saudi Arabia—how do you think Iraqi Sunni civilians should distinguish between the good guys and the bad guys in this circumstance?

BRENNAN: It’s tough sorting out good guys and bad guys in a lot of these areas, it is. And human rights abuses, whether they take place on the part of ISIL or of militias or individuals who are working as part of formal security services, needs to be exposed, needs to be stopped.

And in an area like Iraq and Syria, there has been some horrific, horrific human rights abuses. And this is something that I think we need to be able to address. And when we see it, we do bring it to the attention of authorities. And when we see it, we do bring it to the attention of authorities. And we will not work with entities that are engaged in such activities.

As I noted at the time, Brennan totally dodged the question about Saudi atrocities. But it is also the case that many of the “moderates” we’ve partnered with in both Syria and Iraq have themselves engaged in atrocities.

So I suspect his claim that “we will not work with entities that are engaged in such activities” is one of the statements Wyden et al were pointing to.

A potentially related alternative candidate (the letter did say Brennan had made false statements, plural) is this exchange. When Brennan claimed, at the time, he has no ties to Qasim Soleimani, I assumed he was lying, not just because we’re actually fighting a way in IRGC’s vicinity but also because Brennan seemed to exhibit some of the “tells” he does when he lies.

QUESTION: James Sitrick, Baker & McKenzie. You spent a considerable amount of your opening remarks talking about the importance of liaison relationships. Charlie alluded to this in one of his references to you, on the adage—the old adage has it that the enemy of your enemy is your friend. Are we in any way quietly, diplomatically, indirectly, liaisoning with Mr. Soleimani and his group and his people in Iraq?

BRENNAN: I am not engaging with Mr. Qasem Soleimani, who is the head of the Quds Force of Iran. So no, I am not.

I am engaged, though, with a lot of different partners, some of close, allied countries as well as some that would be considered adversaries, engaged with the Russians on issues related to terrorism.

We did a great job working with the Russians on Sochi. They were very supportive on Boston Marathon. We’re also looking at the threat that ISIL poses both to the United States as well as to Russia.

So I try to take advantage of all the different partners that are out there, because there is a strong alignment on some issues—on proliferation as well as on terrorism and others as well.

I happen to think it an exaggeration that the Russians “were very supportive on Boston Marathon,” but maybe that’s because FSB was rolling up CIA spies who were investigating potentially related groups in Russia.

Finally, while less likely, I think this might be a candidate.

QUESTION: Thank you. Paula DiPerna, NTR Foundation. This is probably an unpopular suggestion, but is it feasible or how feasible would it be to do a little selective Internet disruption in the areas concerned, a la a blockade, digital blockade, and then an international fund to indemnify business loss?

BRENNAN: OK. First of all, as we all know, the worldwide web, the Internet, is a very large enterprise. And trying to stop things from coming out, there are political issues, there are legal issues here in the United States as far as freedom of speech is concerned. But even given that consideration, doing it technically and preventing some things from surfacing is really quite challenging.

And we see that a number of these organizations have been able to immediately post what they’re doing in Twitter. And the ability to stop some things from getting out is really quite challenging.

As far as, you know, indemnification of various companies on some of these issues, there has been unfortunately a very, very long, multi-year effort on the part of the Congress to try to pass some cybersecurity legislation that addressed some of these issues. There has been passage in the Senate.

I think it’s overdue. We need to update our legal structures as well as our policy structures to deal with the cyber threats we face.

Remember, Ron Wyden has been pointing to an OLC opinion on Common Commercial Services (which, however, CIA’s now General Counsel Carolyn Krass said publicly she wouldn’t rely on) for years. I suspect indemnity is one of the things it might cover.

Plus, I do think it likely that we’ve disrupted the Internet in various circumstances.

Who knows? Maybe Brennan just told a lot of lies.

It wouldn’t be the first time.

Update: NatSec sources are already dismissing this Sy Hersh piece on the real story behind the bin Laden killing. But if there’s truth to this detail, then it would suggest I was overly optimistic when I suggested Brennan was truthful about outsourcing our interrogation to allies.

The retired official told me that the CIA leadership had become experts in derailing serious threats from Congress: ‘They create something that is horrible but not that bad. Give them something that sounds terrible. “Oh my God, we were shoving food up a prisoner’s ass!” Meanwhile, they’re not telling the committee about murders, other war crimes, and secret prisons like we still have in Diego Garcia. The goal also was to stall it as long as possible, which they did.’

If we do still have a secret prison in Diego Garcia, then the claim that we outsource everything to allies would be the key lie here.

7 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    Brennan conveniently ignores our own atrocities, too. (Wedding parties being blown up certainly qualify.)

  2. What Constitution? says:

    As games go, this one’s not too challenging. After all, Brennan’s lips moved in March. It might be interesting to try ranking the lies in significance, but just identifying them is pretty much covered by having a transcript or a video clip, isn’t it?

  3. Evangelista says:

    Just a technical note in regard to humane and inhumane execution: Beheading and drop-hanging rank at the top in humane execution methods, with garotting next below. Pull-up hanging ranks with garroting, both killing by clamping the carotids. Beheading cuts them and drop hanging breaks the neck in clamping. Pull-up and put-down hanging, with revivals between, constitute torture and may not be executions. The keeping-up-with-technology execution methods that the United States is world-famous for, electrocution, gas, lethal-injection, are torture-execution methods. They are intended and purposed to horrify the victim/condemned, supposedly to discourage the condemned behavior, but really to horror-titillate the public, especially the self-righteous, who especially love that sort of thing (Read Revelations in Judeo-Christian literature and note its popularity and the emotion it evokes in supporters). Each technical “advance” is what is scariest in tech this year, with each new “lethal cocktail” recipe being mixed not to produce death, but to time or prolong, or maximize victim lucidity for process duration. Plain lethal injection, just to get the job done and be done would employ morphine or heroin, as doctors have employed for centuries (See Axel Munthe, “The Story of San Michele”).

    Leaving out much in between, the extreme inhumane execution end of the scale appears to also be ‘owned’ by the United States, for its invention and utilization of “kinetic penetrators”, also known as “flame-front penetrators”, “controlled-burn nuclear munitions”, “depleted-uranium penetrators” and “silver-bullets”, because their residues execute children exposed in areas of use for generations, damaging and deforming the ones they fail to damage enough to kill. These have taken top spot from plastic anti-personell pellets (no show on x-ray), napalm, poison gas, and so on, and, of course, the currently very popular Helfire incinerator missiles.

    For all of this Brennan’s saying “… we will not work with entities that are engaged in such activities.” can very accurately, and reasonably, be asserted not a lie, assuming Brennan’s “we” is referring to the United States, which does not work with such entities, because it is the entity engaged in “such activities”. Compare the statement to a rapist who might say, “I would never stand by and watch someone being raped.”

    • wallace says:

      quote”For all of this Brennan’s saying “… we will not work with entities that are engaged in such activities.” can very accurately, and reasonably, be asserted not a lie, assuming Brennan’s “we” is referring to the United States, which does not work with such entities, because it is the entity engaged in “such activities”. “unquote

      Shades of sadistic barbarians. Indeed..Murika.. the United States of Depravity. Land of the lying, torturing and murderous psychopaths of the USG.

      Meanwhile, my computer dies for 4 days and the entire IC world begins imploding. Damn. Just my luck. Hopefully though.. I’ll live to see the day when these lying war criminals face a hangman’s noose.

      btw emptywheel. Thanks for your incredible journalism.

  4. wallace says:

    On a side note.. I just noticed emptywheel’s new twitter name “Potholewheel”, which I’d bet is a burn on Michigan’s roads. Having just returned from a 200 mile trip to Ann Arbor and back home… I submit Michigan has the worst roads I’ve ever driven on. In fact, when I first moved to my new home town in the middle of the Manistee forest, I thought I’d time traveled to the early 19th century. Most of the towns backstreets and county roads are still DIRT. sheeezushchrist. WTF is wrong with this state? oh…nevermind..cause corruption. right.

  5. Teddy says:

    I can tell you, with regard to domestic disruptions of the internet and telecom, that everyone I spoke with here in Portland commented on how garbled our call phone calls were and how slow our internet was during the Preznit’s visit last week.

    Wheels up, everything went back to fast and normal-sounding. Jade Helm 15, baybee!

  6. MC says:

    Why do folks doubt Sy Hersh’s story – I’m looking for an answer other than it wasn’t published in the New Yorker.

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