CIA Chief-in-Waiting John Brennan had detailed knowledge of “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the agency against suspected terrorists, including waterboarding and other painful torture techniques.
Brennan is expected to be confirmed by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Feb. 7, but he will likely face tough questions about the extent of his knowledge about the CIA’s controversial use of torture. Brennan publicly condemned such interrogation techniques when he temporarily left the government in 2005. He claims to have forcefully opposed torture methods while working for the CIA after 9/11, but lawmakers will likely question him to see if he did in fact take a stand against it, Reuters reports.
Brennan regularly received classified CIA reports about the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques”. Unnamed sources told Reuters that according to official records, Brennan expressed no opposition to the torture methods at the time. Other former officials said they don’t recall hearing any objections from him. Some say Brennan was uncomfortable about the use of physically coercive tactics, but that he did little more than privately express his concern with a few of his colleagues.
“I have many questions and concerns about his nomination to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency, especially what role he played in the so-called enhanced interrogation programs while serving at the CIA during the last administration,” said Senator John McCain, who himself was tortured while in captivity in North Vietnam.
Obama made an attempt to nominate Brennan as CIA director at the start of his first term in 2009, but Brennan withdrew his name from consideration after facing strong opposition from liberal groups that claimed he supported former president George W. Bush’s interrogation methods. Brennan was described as a “supporter of the ‘dark side’ policies”, with opponents claiming his appointment “would dishearten and alienate those who opposed torture under the Bush Administration,” said a letter sent to Obama in 2008.
As a result of the backlash, Obama, who issued an executive order banning torture techniques shortly after taking the presidency, made Brennan his counter-terrorism adviser instead, where his appointment was less controversial. But now, Brennan’s knowledge of interrogation techniques is back on the table as he prepares to become the director of the CIA. A senior Obama administration official says that even though the nominee received extended reports of torture, he played no role in the interrogation program’s “creation, execution or oversight”.
“(Brennan) was on hundreds if not thousands of messages a day regarding many different issues but his primary responsibility was … helping manage the day-to-day running of the agency, to include support, logistics, IT, budget, personnel resources, facilities, IG (Inspector General) recommendations, and the like,” the official told Reuters.
In wake of his appointment, the Senate Intelligence Committee will attempt to once again determine the extent of Brennan’s involvement and the truth behind his stated opposition to torture.