Jan. 14, 2013
by Scott Lemieux

John Brennan’s nomination for head of the CIA shows the appalling extent to which the worst abuses of the post-9/11 security state have become institutionalized.


Less than a month after Barack Obama was elected in 2008, John Brennan withdrew himself from consideration for head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) because of opposition from liberals, which centered on his role as chief of staff to CIA director George Tenet when the Bush administration’s arbitrary detention and torture programs were being developed. It is particularly depressing, then, that Obama has done as a safely re-elected incumbent what he felt he could not do in his first term: Nominate Brennan as head of the CIA. The fact that Brennan has been nominated despite his support for some of the worst abuses of the post-9/11 security state demonstrates the appalling extent to which many of these practices have become institutionalized, as well as the political weakness of defenders of civil liberties.

To understand why Brennan should not even be considered as an appropriate choice to head the CIA by a Democratic president, one can start with a PBS Newshour debate about the Bush administration’s policy of extraordinary rendition—that is, detaining suspected terrorists and delivering them to other countries without due process. Brennan strongly defended the practice:

I think it’s an absolutely vital tool. I have been intimately familiar now over the past decade with the cases of rendition that the U.S. Government has been involved in. And I can say without a doubt that it has been very successful as far as producing intelligence that has saved lives.

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