John O. Brennan
John Owen Brennan (born September 22, 1955) was the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from March 2013 to January 2017. He served as chief counterterrorism advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama; his title was Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, and Assistant to the President. His responsibilities included overseeing plans to protect the country from terrorism and respond to natural disasters, and he met with the President daily. Previously, he advised President Obama on foreign policy and intelligence issues during the 2008 presidential campaign and transition. Brennan withdrew his name from consideration for Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the first Obama administration over concerns about his support for transferring terror suspects to countries where they may be tortured while serving under President George W. Bush. Instead, Brennan was appointed Deputy National Security Advisor, a position which did not require Senate confirmation.
|John O. Brennan|
|5th Director of the Central Intelligence Agency|
March 8, 2013 – January 20, 2017
|Preceded by||Michael Morell (Acting)|
|Succeeded by||Mike Pompeo|
|5th United States Homeland Security Advisor|
January 20, 2009 – March 8, 2013
|Preceded by||Ken Wainstein|
|Succeeded by||Lisa Monaco|
|Director of the National Counterterrorism Center
August 27, 2004 – August 1, 2005
|President||George W. Bush|
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||John Redd|
|Born||John Owen Brennan
September 22, 1955
North Bergen, New Jersey, U.S.
|Education||Fordham University (BA)
University of Texas, Austin (MA)
Brennan's 25 years with the CIA included work as a Near East and South Asia analyst, as station chief in Saudi Arabia, and as director of the National Counterterrorism Center. After leaving government service in 2005, Brennan became CEO of The Analysis Corporation, a security consulting business, and served as chairman of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, an association of intelligence professionals.
Brennan served in the White House as Assistant to the President for Homeland Security between 2009 and 2013. President Obama nominated Brennan as his next director of the CIA on January 7, 2013. The ACLU called for the Senate not to proceed with the appointment until it confirms that "all of his conduct was within the law" at the CIA and White House. John Brennan was approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee on March 5, 2013, to succeed David Petraeus as the Director of the CIA by a vote of 12 to 3.
Early life and education
Brennan is the son of Irish immigrants from Roscommon, Republic of Ireland. He was born in North Bergen, New Jersey. He attended the Immaculate Heart of Mary Elementary School, and graduated from Saint Joseph of the Palisades High School in West New York, New Jersey before enrolling at Fordham University in New York City.
While riding a bus to class at Fordham, he saw an ad in The New York Times that said the CIA was recruiting, and he felt a CIA career would be a good match for his "wanderlust" and his desire to do public service. His studies included a junior year abroad learning Arabic and taking Middle Eastern studies courses at the American University in Cairo.
In 1976, he voted for Communist Party USA candidate Gus Hall in the presidential election; he later said that he viewed it as a way "of signaling my unhappiness with the system, and the need for change."
He received a B.A. in political science from Fordham in 1977. He then attended the University of Texas at Austin, receiving a Master of Arts in government with a concentration in Middle Eastern studies in 1980. He speaks Arabic fluently.
Brennan began his CIA career as an analyst and spent 25 years with the agency. He was a daily intelligence briefer for President Bill Clinton. In 1996, he was CIA station chief in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia when the Khobar Towers bombing killed 19 U.S. servicemen. In 1999, he was appointed chief of staff to George Tenet, then-Director of the CIA. Brennan became deputy executive director of the CIA in March 2001. He was director of the newly created Terrorist Threat Integration Center from 2003 to 2004, an office that sifted through and compiled information for President Bush's daily top secret intelligence briefings and employed the services of analysts from a dozen U.S. agencies and entities. One of the controversies in his career involves the distribution of intelligence to the Bush White House that helped lead to an "Orange Terror Alert", in late 2003. The intelligence, which purported to list terror targets, was highly controversial within the CIA and was later discredited. An Obama administration official does not dispute that Brennan distributed the intelligence during the Bush era but said Brennan passed it along because that was his job. His last post within the Intelligence Community was as director of the National Counterterrorism Center in 2004 and 2005, which incorporated information on terrorist activities across U.S. agencies.
Brennan then left government service for a few years, becoming Chairman of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) and the CEO of The Analysis Corporation (TAC). He continued to lead TAC after its acquisition by Global Strategies Group in 2007 and its growth as the Global Intelligence Solutions division of Global's North American technology business GTEC, before returning to government service with the Obama administration as Homeland Security Advisor on January 20, 2009.
On January 7, 2013, Brennan was nominated by President Barack Obama to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
In September 2017, Brennan was named a Distinguished Non-Resident Scholar at The University of Texas at Austin, where he also acts as a Senior Advisor to the University's Intelligence Studies Project.
Counterterrorism advisor to President Obama
In late 2008, Brennan was reportedly the top choice to become the next Director of the CIA in the incoming Obama administration. However, Brennan withdrew his name from consideration because of opposition to his CIA service under President George W. Bush and past public statements he had made in support of enhanced interrogation and the transfer of terrorism suspects to countries where they might be tortured (extraordinary rendition). President Obama then appointed him to be his Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, the President's chief counterterrorism advisor and a position that did not require Senate confirmation.
In August 2009, Brennan criticized some Bush-administration anti-terror policies, saying that waterboarding had threatened national security by increasing the recruitment of terrorists and decreasing the willingness of other nations to cooperate with the U.S. He also described the Obama administration's focus as being on "extremists" and not "jihadists". He said that using the second term, which means one who is struggling for a holy goal, gives "these murderers the religious legitimacy they desperately seek" and suggests the US is at war with the religion of Islam.
In an early December 2009 interview with the Bergen Record, Brennan remarked, "the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement communities have to bat 1.000 every day. The terrorists are trying to be successful just once". At a press conference days after the failed Christmas Day bomb attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, Brennan said U.S. intelligence agencies did not miss any signs that could have prevented the attempt but later said he had let the President down by underestimating a small group of Yemeni terrorists and not connecting them to the attempted bomber. Within two weeks after the incident, however, he produced a report highly critical of the performance of U.S. intelligence agencies, concluding that their focus on terrorist attempts aimed at U.S. soil was inadequate. In February 2010, he claimed on Meet the Press that he was tired of Republican lawmakers using national security issues as political footballs, and making allegations where they did not know the facts.
Brennan was present in the Situation Room in May 2011 when the United States conducted the military operation that killed Osama bin Laden. He called President Obama's decision to go forward with the mission one of the "gutsiest calls of any president in memory." In the aftermath of the operation, Brennan said that the U.S. troops in the raid had been "met with a great deal of resistance," and bin Laden had used a woman as a human shield.
In April 2012, Brennan was the first Obama administration official to publicly acknowledge CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. In his speech he explained the legality, morality, and effectiveness of the program. The ACLU and other organizations disagreed. In 2011-2012, he also helped reorganize the process, under the aegis of the Disposition Matrix database, by which people outside of war zones were put on the list of drone targets. According to an Associated Press story, the reorganization helped "concentrate power" over the process inside the White House administration.
In June 2011, Brennan claimed that US counter-terrorism operations had not resulted in "a single collateral death" in the past year because of the "precision of the capabilities that we've been able to develop." Nine months later, Brennan claimed he had said "we had no information" about any civilian, noncombatant deaths during the timeframe in question. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism disagreed with Brennan, citing their own research that initially led them to believe that 45 to 56 civilians, including six children, had been killed by ten US drone strikes during the year-long period in question. Additional research led the Bureau to raise their estimate to 76 deaths, including eight children and two women. According to the Bureau, Brennan's claims "do not appear to bear scrutiny." The Atlantic has been harsher in its criticism, saying that "Brennan has been willing to lie about those drone strikes to hide ugly realities."
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Brennan's comments about collateral death are perhaps explained by a counting method that treats all military-aged males in a strike zone as combatants unless there is explicit information to prove them innocent.
CIA Director (2013–2017)
Morris Davis, a former Chief Prosecutor for the Guantanamo Military Commissions compared Brennan to Canadian Omar Khadr, who was convicted of "committing murder in violation of the law of war". He suggested that Brennan's role in targeting individuals for CIA missile strikes was no more authorized than the throwing of the grenade of which Khadr was accused.
On February 27, 2013, the Senate Intelligence Committee postponed a vote, expected to be taken the next day on the confirmation of Brennan until the following week. On March 5, the Intelligence Committee approved the nomination 12–3. The Senate was set to vote on Brennan's nomination on March 6, 2013. However, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul began a talking Senate filibuster of the vote, citing President Barack Obama and his administration's use of combat drones against Americans, stating "No one politician should be allowed to judge the guilt, to charge an individual, to judge the guilt of an individual and to execute an individual. It goes against everything that we fundamentally believe in our country." Paul's filibuster continued for 13 hours, ending with the words: "I'm hopeful that we have drawn attention to this issue, that this issue will not fade away, and that the president will come up with a response." After the filibuster, Brennan was confirmed by a vote of 63–34.
Brennan was sworn into the office of CIA Director on March 8, 2013 in a 63-44 vote.
Two months after assuming his post at the CIA, Brennan replaced Gina Haspel as head of the National Clandestine Service and placed another unidentified, career intelligence officer and former Marine in her place. In June 2013, Brennan installed Avril Haines as Deputy Director of the Agency.
In April 2014, Brennan visited Kiev where he met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and First Deputy Prime Minister Vitaliy Yarema and purportedly discussed intelligence-sharing between the United States and Ukraine.
In the summer of 2014, Brennan faced scrutiny after it was revealed that some CIA employees had improperly accessed the computer servers of the Senate Intelligence Committee in the wake of oversight of the CIA's role in enhanced interrogation and extraordinary rendition. Brennan apologized to Senators and stated that he would "fight for change at the CIA," and stated he would pass along the findings of the Inspector General on the incident. After the incident, Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) stated he had "lost confidence in Brennan."
In December 2014, Brennan again came under fire when he defended the CIA's past interrogation tactics as having yielded "useful" intelligence, during a news conference. While admitting that the actions of the CIA officers were "abhorrent", worthy of "repudiation", and had, at times, exceeded legal boundaries Brennan stated the CIA had also done "a lot of things right during this difficult time to keep this country strong and secured."
In October 2015, the contents of Brennan's personal e-mail account were stolen by a hack and posted on WikiLeaks. The e-mails did not contain classified information but did include sensitive personal information, including a draft of Brennan's Standard Form 86 (SF-86) application. During a subsequent security conference at George Washington University, Brennan proclaimed his "outrage" at the hack but also demonstrated the need to "evolve to deal with these new threats and challenges." In January 2017, a North Carolina college student pleaded guilty in a Virginia federal court to charges relating to hacking Brennan's e-mail.
During testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee in June 2016, Brennan warned of the threat posed by ISIL claiming it had the ability to draw on a "large cadre of Western fighters" and reiterated the threats posed by lone wolf attackers, calling them "an exceptionally challenging issue for the intelligence community." Brennan detailed ISIL's size to the committee, specifying they had more fighters than al-Qaeda at its height and that they were spread between Africa and southwest Asia.
While director, Brennan created ten new "mission centers" in his campaign to focus the CIA on threats in cyberspace, where analysts and hackers work in teams with focuses on specific areas of the globe and particular issues. In addition, he created the Directorate for Digital Innovation (DDI) to hone the Agency's tradecraft in the information technology sector and create new tools dedicated to cyber-espionage. Despite general praise for his actions from within the intelligence community about Brennan's shift towards cyber, some CIA officials said they held reservations in moving away from traditional human intelligence. In January 2017, Brennan, alongside FBI director James Comey, NSA director Mike Rogers, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper briefed President-elect Donald Trump in Trump Tower on the findings of the intelligence community in regards to Russian election interference and the allegations contained in the Steele dossier.
Less than a week before Brennan left office in January, 2017, he expressed several criticisms of incoming President Trump. Brennan said "I don't think he has a full appreciation of Russian capabilities, Russia's intentions and actions that they are undertaking in many parts of the world". Brennan stated that it was "outrageous" that Trump was "equating the intelligence community with Nazi Germany."
Criticism of Trump administration
Since leaving office, Brennan has been harshly critical of Trump. In March 2018, Brennan said Trump had "paranoia", accused him of "constant misrepresentation of the facts", and called him a "charlatan". Following the firing of senior FBI official Andrew McCabe later that month, Brennan tweeted to Trump, "When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but will not destroy America... America will triumph over you." Axios quoted Brennan as replying on Twitter to Trump's harsh comments about James Comey (over quotes reported in advance from his April 2018 book) as, "Your kakistocracy is collapsing after its lamentable journey... we have the opportunity to emerge from this nightmare stronger & more committed to ensuring a better life for all Americans, including those you have so tragically deceived."
British hacker Kane Gamble, sentenced to 2 years in youth detention, posed as CIA chief to access highly sensitive information and hacked into Brennan's private email and iCloud accounts, made hoax calls to his family home and even took control of his wife's iPad. The judge said Gamble engaged in "politically motivated cyber terrorism."
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: John O. Brennan|
- Kopan, Tal (September 15, 2016). "Polygraph panic: CIA director fretted his vote for communist". CNN.com.
I said I was neither Democratic or Republican, but it was my way, as I was going to college, of signaling my unhappiness with the system, and the need for change.
- James Gordon Meek (January 9, 2010). "White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan: Out of the shadows and into the spotlight". New York Daily News.
- Marquis' Who's Who in the South and Southwest, 36th, 37th Editions; Who's Who in the East, 37th, 38th Editions; Who's Who in American Politics, 22nd, 23rd Editions; Who's Who in America, 64th, 65th Editions
- Amanda Erickson (January 7, 2013). "Profile: John O. Brennan". Who Runs Gov. The Washington Post.
- "Annual Report To Congress On White House Office Staff" (PDF). Executive Office of the President. July 1, 2009. p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 13, 2011.
- Jackson, Herb (December 5, 2009). "North Bergen man is homeland security assistant for President Obama". The Bergen Record. Archived from the original on May 7, 2011. Retrieved October 31, 2010.
- Karen DeYoung (February 8, 2009). "Obama's NSC Will Get New Power; Directive Expands Makeup and Role Of Security Body". The Washington Post. p. A01.
- Kate Bolduan (March 22, 2008). "Chief of firm involved in breach is Obama adviser". CNN.
- Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane (December 3, 2008). "After Sharp Words on C.I.A., Obama Faces a Delicate Task". New York Times.
- Niall O'Dowd (June 6, 2010). "John Brennan, son of Irish immigrants, now Obama's top gun". Irish Central. Retrieved October 31, 2010.
- Judith Mbuya (December 12, 2005). "New at the Top: John O. Brennan". Washington Post. p. D08.
- Glenn Greenwald (2013-01-07). "John Brennan's extremism and dishonesty rewarded with CIA Director nomination: Obama's top terrorism adviser goes from unconfirmable in 2008 to uncontroversial in 2013, reflecting the Obama legacy". London: The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2013-02-08.
As it typically does in the US National Security State, all of that deceit and radicalism is resulting not in recrimination or loss of credibility for Brennan, but in reward and promotion. At 1 pm EST today, Obama will announce that he has selected Brennan to replace Gen. David Petraeus as CIA chief: the same position for which, four short years ago, Brennan's pro-torture-and-rendition past rendered him unfit and unconfirmable.
- Julie Pace (2013-01-07). "Obama to nominate counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to lead Central Intelligence Agency". Washington DC: Canada.com. Archived from the original on 2013-02-08.
Obama considered Brennan for the top CIA job in 2008. But Brennan withdrew his name amid questions about his connection to enhanced interrogation techniques while serving in the spy agency during the George W. Bush administration.
- "Brennan Nomination to Head CIA Raises Concerns". American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
- Nominee to Lead C.I.A. Clears Hurdle After Release of Drone Data
- "Ex-CIA Chief John Brennan Signs as MSNBC/NBC as Contributor". TheWrap. 2018-02-02. Retrieved 2018-02-04.
- Kopan, Tal (September 15, 2016). "Polygraph panic: CIA director fretted his vote for communist". CNN.com. (Brennan did not specifically say that his vote was in 1976, but he said that the vote happened before 1980, and in November 1972 he was 17, too young to vote.)
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- Mike Memoli (August 16, 2009). "Brennan Outlines Terror Strategy, Rebutting Critics". Real Clear Politics. Retrieved October 31, 2010.
- Time staff (January 4, 2010). "There is no smoking gun". TIME. Retrieved October 31, 2010.
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- "Trail leading to bin Laden began with his trusted courier". CNN.com. 2011-07-05. Retrieved 2018-03-18.
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- "On Whether Bin Laden Was Armed, Here's What Officials Said". NPR.org. 2011-05-04. Retrieved 2018-03-18.
- John O. Brennan (30 April 2012). "The Ethics and Efficacy of the President's Counterterrorism Strategy". Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
- Savage, Charlie (30 April 2012). "Top U.S. Security Official Says 'Rigorous Standards' Are Used for Drone Strikes". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
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- Obama's counter-terrorism advisor defends drone strikes April 30, 2012, By Brian Bennett and David S. Cloud, Los Angeles Times
- John Brennan, Advisor, White House Office of Homeland Security (29 June 2011). Obama Administration Counterterrorism Strategy: John Brennan talked about the campaign against al-Qaida, and the Obama administration's counterterrorism strategy since the killing of Osama bin Laden. John McLaughlin moderated questions from the audience (Video). Paul H. Nitz School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland: C-SPAN. Event occurs at Events occur at 49:05 in video. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
One of the things that President Obama has been insistent on is that we're exceptionally precise and surgical in terms of addressing the terrorist threat. And by that I mean if there are terrorists within an area where there are women and children or others, we do not take such action that might put those innocent men, women, and children in danger. In fact I can say that the types of operations that the US has been involved in, in the counterterrorism realm, that nearly for the past year there hasn't been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities that we've been able to develop.
- Woods, Chris (9 January 2013). "New questions over CIA nominee Brennan's denial of civilian drone deaths". The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
Claims by the Central Intelligence Agency's new director-designate that the US intelligence services received 'no information' about any civilians killed by US drones in the year prior to June 2011 do not appear to bear scrutiny ... Nine months later, George Stephanopoulos of ABC News challenged Brennan on his original claims. 'Do you stand by the statement you have made in the past that, as effective as they have been, [drones] have not killed a single civilian?' the interviewer asked. 'That seems hard to believe.' Brennan was robust, insisting that 'what I said was that over a period of time before my public remarks that we had no information about a single civilian, a noncombatant being killed.' ... A later report in the New York Times provided a possible explanation for Brennan's robustness. The paper revealed that Washington 'counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.' ... The Bureau has now raised its estimate of the number of civilians killed in the period Brennan claimed none had died to 76, including eight children and two women. The new figures are based in part on our own research and on studies by Associated Press and Stanford and New York universities.
- "'This Week' Transcript: John Brennan, Economic Panel". ABC News. 29 April 2012. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
Well, what I said was that over a period of time before my public remarks that we had no information about a single civilian, a noncombatant being killed. Unfortunately, in war, there are casualties, including among the civilian population.
- Woods, Chris (18 July 2011). "US claims of 'no civilian deaths' are untrue". The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
To date, the Bureau has identified 45–56 civilian victims across 10 individual strikes – the most recent in mid-June 2011. The dead include six children.
- Friedersdorf, Conor (1 August 2014). "Does John Brennan Know Too Much for Obama to Fire Him?". The Atlantic. Retrieved 3 August 2014.|quote=In the past, Brennan has been willing to lie about those drone strikes to hide ugly realities. For example, he stated in the summer of 2011 that there had been zero collateral deaths from covert U.S. drone strikes in the previous year, an absurd claim that has been decisively debunked.
- Jo Becker; Scott Shane. "Secret 'Kill List' Proves a Test of Obama's Principles and Will". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.
- Morris Davis (2013-02-08). "The law of war does not shield the CIA and John Brennan's drone kill list". London: The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2013-02-08.
Jack Goldsmith, former assistant attorney general in the George W Bush administration and now a professor at Harvard Law School, argues the past decade shows that the United States needs a new statutory framework governing how it conducts secret warfare. Perhaps that would be a positive step, but a new domestic statutory scheme would not make a civilian working for a civilian agency a lawful combatant entitled to immunity under the law of war for acts committed outside the United States.
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- Nomination of John O. Brennan to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency: Hearing before the Select Committee on Intelligence of the United States Senate, One Hundred Thirteenth Congress, First Session, February 7, 2013, March 5, 2013
- Appearances on C-SPAN
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|New office||Director of the National Counterterrorism Center
|Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
|Homeland Security Advisor