Type to search

Brennan Grilled On Drones, Torture At Confirmation Hearing

Memo Pad

Brennan Grilled On Drones, Torture At Confirmation Hearing


John Brennan, the nominee for CIA Director, vehemently defended the Obama administration’s drone strike program and condemned the use of torture during his first confirmation hearing before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee on Thursday.

Drones were a dominant topic of the hearing, which took place just three days after NBC News published a Justice Department memo laying out the legal justification for the administration’s targeted killings. As Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, Brennan has overseen the controversial program.

Shortly after Brennan began his opening statement, protesters from the anti-war group Code Pink began interrupting the nominee. After the fifth protester was removed by security, committee chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) chose to clear the chamber and remove all Code Pink members. “This witness is entitled to be heard, ladies and gentlemen, so give him that opportunity,” Feinstein said.

Once Brennan did get the opportunity to speak, he strongly defended the drone strikes at the center of the controversy. “Any actions we take fully comport with our law,” Brennan declared.

Beating back accusations that the Obama administration uses the drones for punitive attacks, Brennan said such actions  are used “as a last resort to save lives, when there’s no other alternative.” He also spoke of “the agony that we go through to make sure that we do not have any collateral injuries or deaths.”

Backing up his point, Senator Feinstein noted in her opening statement that the yearly number of civilians killed in drone strikes was “in the single digits.” That assertion is highly debatable — according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, drone strikes have killed between 473 to 893 civilians in Pakistan alone since 2004 — but neither Brennan nor any senators disputed it.

Brennan also faced several questions about his position on the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” that were prevalent while he worked at the CIA under the George W. Bush administration. While Brennnan said “I have a personal opinion that waterboarding is reprehensible and it’s something that should not be done,” and promised that it “never will be if I have anything to do with it,” he declined to label it as torture.

“I am not a lawyer, senator, and I cannot address that question,” Brennan dissembled. Similarly, when Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) pressed Brennan on whether torture helped lead U.S. intelligence forces to Osama bin Laden, Brennan said he was unsure.

Despite the delicate subject matter, Brennan showed no outward signs of unease throughout his testimony. The one exception was when Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) directly accused Brennan of leaking national security secrets to the press.

“It seems to me the leak the Justice Department is looking for is right here in front of us,” Risch said.

“I disagree vehemently,” Brennan fired back.

Brennan is widely expected to win confirmation as CIA Director. On Tuesday, he will face a second, closed hearing, before the committee decides whether to send his nomination to the full Senate for a vote.

Photo credit: AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Henry Decker

Henry Decker was formerly the Managing Editor of The National Memo. He is currently an Online Associate at MRCampaigns.

  • 1


  1. Dominick Vila February 8, 2013

    The fact that Mr. Brennan refused to acknowledge that the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques used agains enemy combatants (I didn’t know we fought combatants that were not our enemies in any of our many wars), should not surprise anyone. That despicable practice was unconstitutional, against everything the USA stands for, and considered a crime against humanity by the International Court of Justice and all civilized nations. Doing so would have resulted in those responsible for that abhorrent practice to face criminal charges and, perhaps, the current inquisitors who either sat silently while torture was taking place or, worse, supported it, being the ones investigated instead of the ones asking questions.
    The truth is that waterboarding, a form of torture used since medieval times, took place and well all remained ambivalent to it while it was happening.

    1. RobertCHastings February 8, 2013

      Maybe that is why George W refused to let the US become a signatory nation to the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court.

    2. nobsartist February 9, 2013

      Who is dumber? republiCON “representatives”, or the chumps that elect them?

      With the high number of stupid voters out there, does it surprise you that nothing gets done in Washington?

  2. I Zheet M'Drawz February 8, 2013

    Now that is a torture!


    Almost as good as boiling in oil.

  3. nobsartist February 8, 2013

    Brennan should now be tried for violating the Geneva Convention and war crimes. He is not fit to serve the people of the United States.

    1. RobertCHastings February 8, 2013

      He was a member of whose intelligence committee? Remember folks, he hasn’t just appearedout of the woodwork. How hypocritical is it of so many of these senators to question him about what his bosses were complicit in 10 years ago. For those of you who can’t figure that one out, his bosses ten years ago were George W, Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Paul Wolfowitz, etc. Waterboarding AND the drone issues were created before Obama was even a senator, this government had violated the Geneva Convention LONG before Obama took the oath of office in January of 2008. The office of the presidency had lied to the Congress and the United Nations long before Obama was even considered a rising star in the Democratic Party. If you are going to crap, maybe you should wipe your — from the last time. I guess that’s just another way of saying, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

      1. nobsartist February 8, 2013

        Then why is he still around?

        1. RobertCHastings February 8, 2013

          Why do YOU think he is still around? I would say it is probably because he is good at what he does, gathering intelligence and deciding what to do with it.

          1. nobsartist February 8, 2013

            Why do I still think he is around? Maybe because so far, Obama has done nothing to reverse ANYTHING that bush did.
            He hasnt had him investigated for war crimes. He has done nothing to Wall Street or the mortgage industry for their transgressions and in fact has encouraged them to keep screwing America by his lack of concern. BP got of the hook easy.

            It looks to me like Obama was just an orderly transfer of power to another one of the cronies but I dont want to upset the ostriches by stating the obvious.

          2. RobertCHastings February 8, 2013

            Apparently yooou and I don’t watch the same source for news. BP is, thanks to the Obama DOJ, STILL liable for damages done in the Gulf and to its residents, within the past week having been the recipient of a large losing judgement. While the trust fund they established is nowhere near depleted, they are still being sued by individuals, states, and communities. It is, by no means, over for BP. Why should Brennan be investigated for war crimes – he neither initiated nor acted upon orders from others to commit acts of torture. Brennan was not responsible for the development of the drone program, nor was he ever in a position to authorize the deadly use of a drone. And if you honestly believe that nothing has been going on with Wall Street since 2009 when Obama took office, then you have definitely not been either watching a legitimate news source, or you have not been reading legitimate news sources, like the NYT or the WSJ. The only thing you said that makes sense is that there was an orderly transfer of power, which is, incidentally, one of the trademarks of a democracy. The only thing you have stated that is obvious is your mental and intellectual condition, unfortunately compounded by a severe case of conservatism.

          3. nobsartist February 9, 2013

            Has BP been fined enough? Our opinions differ. Should they have been allowed to use dispersants? It seems to me that the government is doing whatever it can to make this a painless as possible for BP all the while looking the other way while thay screw us at the pump. Another pass from Obama like the one he gave wall street and everyone else except the American tax payer.

            As for Brennnan, he participated and carried out orders. He is as fucking guilty as the get away driver in a bank robbery.

            The motherfucker should be executed, not promoted.

            BY the way, we both read the same news sources you just happen to be easily miss led.

            Me conservative? You must be easily fooled.

            Orderly transfer of power? Is that what the Constitution requires after an election is stolen and our system ruined by people interested in personal gain before country?


            I am sure that Obama will take care of the wall street speculators that have driven the cost of gas to well over the $1.00 per gallon that its worth right after he gives the “for profit” health care cabal another couple of TRILLION.

          4. RobertCHastings February 9, 2013

            Why are you so full of anger toward the Obama administration. Everything you claim that he has done and that Brennan has done has roots in the Bush administration, and I don’t see you expressing any anger toward him. Why is that, or do I even need to ask? It is pretty apparent that most of your hatred stems from your clear racism. Obama (and Brennan, and Gates, and Hagel, and Panetta, and Geithner, and Bernanke, etc.) have ALL done what they are being allowed to do to clean up the mess they were left with by the previous administratiion. You are, unfortunately, just too blind (or too biased) to see that.

          5. nobsartist February 9, 2013

            You do actually read what you compose dont you? You just answered your own question. Once you peel back the skin of the onion, it is easy to see that these people are just the same old song and dance and yes, you did get fooled again.

            They have only done what they have been allowed to do just as you said and bush couldnt have done what he did without their help.

            Could he.

            Racism? You are clearly an asshole.

          6. RobertCHastings February 9, 2013

            Perhaps,but YOU are clearly a racist, only too afraid to admit it. What you have said about President Obama, when you have mentioned him driectly,has always be preceded or followed with some racially tinged remark. Why would you say those things if you were not offended by his race? And I guess you are incapable of interpreting anythingwritten with words of more than one syllable. I will try to make this as simple for you as possible, so there might be some chance of your understanding what I am saying. Hampered by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, Obama and the Democrats can do ONLY what the Reps will let them do, which for the past two years, at least, has not been very much, and that has been because, like you, they are racists. As Mitch McConnell stated in 2001, the main goal of the Republican party in Washington is to make Obama a one-term president. Well, in case you and your racist friends have not yet received the memo, Obama WON. A BLACK man was REELECTED to the presidency, by a significant majority of the popular vote, and by an even more significant majority of the electoral vote. We can only hope that sometime in the near future science will be able to develop a pill that negates the effects of racism and offer it to the public for free. Oh, to think about, they already HAVE! It is called birth control, but it isn’t quite free, yet. Too bad your mama didn’t know where to put it.

          7. nobsartist February 11, 2013

            Clearly? You must be clearly black because you like to accuse others of being a racist when in reality, you are. Clearly, MOST blacks hate whites so dont call me a racist.

            I didnt bring your people over here in chains.

    2. robert February 8, 2013

      Add George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to that list, nobs.

  4. Andrew February 8, 2013

    One of the 9 Tenets of the Republican Party is hypocrisy. They’re very good at practicing hypocrisy. I wonder when the media and certain Congresscritters will start realizing the truth about EIT (enhancing interrogation techniques) and the drone strike programs: the Bush 43 administration and the SCOTUS’ “Feckless Five” (4 Cons and moderate Kennedy) paved the road and gave the Obama administration a fueled-up race car to drive the road. The Feckless Five misinterpreted the Constitution in their decisions regarding the AUMF and Patriot Act. If you’re looking to blame anyone for EIT and drone strikes, you have your people: Bush 43 administration and the Feckless Five. Although President Obama seems to have given the drone strike program steroids by its increased use, he also stopped the EIT program.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.