In addition to nominating Chuck Hagel, President Obama has also tapped John Brennan, Deputy National Security Advisor, to head the CIA. Though less controversial than Hagel, the Brennan pick sends similar policy signals.
Nathaniel Botwinick at NRO reminds us that Brennan’s handling of the Christmas Day “underwear bomber” led several Republican senators to call for his resignation. Critics slammed the administration’s rush to treat the bomber as a criminal rather than an enemy combatant. Asked what the drawbacks of treating him as an enemy combatant were, Brennan responded, “There’s — there are no downsides or upsides in particular cases. What we’re trying to do is to make sure we apply the right tool in the right instance. In this case, we made a determination that he should be tried in U.S. criminal court.”
I see. If his CIA gig doesn’t work out, Brennan’s mastery of “coach speak” might land him a job helping Mike Shanahan explain why he left an injured Robert Griffin, III in at quarterback for the Redskins yesterday.
Botwinick lists some of Brennan’s other greatest hits:
• He claimed to be untroubled by the 20 percent recidivism rate among Guantanamo detainees: “You know, the American penal system, the recidivism rate is up to something about 50 percent or so, as far as return to crime. Twenty percent isn’t that bad.”
•According to a former CIA official, John Brennan was “instrumental in preventing…an operation in 1998 that would have killed or captured Osama Bin Laden.”
•He supported direct talks with Hezbollah, a designated terrorist organization, second only to al-Qaeda in the number of Americans it has killed.
• Brennan is the leader behind America’s push to kill rather than capture almost all suspected terrorists, thus depriving us of possible intelligence.
• He was one of the driving forces behind the aborted trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City: “We are trying to push this forward as best we can, but we also need non-obstruction from certain forces in our government. . . There are stiff winds delaying us from bringing this man to justice.”
I should also note that the left doesn’t like Brennan, primarily because of his lead role in directing drone killings and his endorsement of most Bush-era interrogation practices. So we have at least this consolation — the new CIA head believes in killing terrorists and, when necessary, perhaps using harsh methods to obtain information from them. Unfortunately, these are but two prerequisites for effectively performing the job.