John Brennan As CIA Chief Would Cement A New Era Of US Counterterrorism


Photo: Lockheed Martin

There are multiple indications that this afternoon President Obama will nominate White House homeland-security and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to be the next director of the CIA.The move is controversial given Brennan’s role as primary architect of President Obama’s drone “kill list,” a policy move thatconcentrated power over the use of lethal U.S. force outside war zones within one small team at the White House,” according to Kimberly Dozier of the Associated Press.

After Obama took office in 2009 the CIA expanded its covert use of drones in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen.

Brennan has been called “Obama’s high priest of targeted killings” since he “transformed U.S. counterterrorism policy” by creating the “disposition matrix” that keeps track of evolving procedures and legal justifications for the targeted killings the U.S. now relies on in the war on terror.

Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post noted that “Brennan wields enormous power in shaping decisions on ‘kill’ lists and the allocation of armed drones, the war’s signature weapon … When operations are proposed in Yemen, Somalia or elsewhere, it is Brennan alone who takes the recommendations to Obama for a final sign-off.”

With the Joint Chiefs of Staff focus on the withdrawal in Afghanistan and the pivot to the Pacific, they’ve been effectively pushed out of the decision-making process on small covert wars, entrenching the drone program in the hands of the CIA working closely with the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).

In November a New York Times op-ed by Gregory Johnson argued that Brennan was the wrong man to succeed David Petraeus as CIA chief since Brennan “is largely responsible for America’s current flawed counterterrorism strategy, which relies too heavily on drone strikes that frequently kill civilians and provide Al Qaeda with countless new recruits.”

Brennan is currently acting director of of the National Counterterroism centre, which not only develops the disposition matrix that is the foundation of Obama’s kill lists, but also copies and examines entire government databases to predict possible criminal behaviour of any U.S. citizen.

In 2008 Brennan withdrew his name for the post because of backlash over his support of “enhanced interrogation techniques” during the Bush administration.

All in all, the nomination of Brennan clearly indicates the Obama administration’s acceptance and continuation of controversial Bush administration policies.

Read the White House talking points on Brennan at Politico.

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