President Obama has chosen John O. Brennan to be the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. To understand the political turmoil occurring within Congressional chambers as the Senate struggles reluctantly to approve the appointment, you must first understand the past of the agency, not its future.
The CIA has long been depicted in movies such as Rendition and the newly released Zero Dark Thirty for its aggressive interrogation tactics. Mr. Brennan, who has dedicated more than 25 years to the agency, is being heavily scrutinized for the agency’s use of these techniques and deliberate misleading of federal officials.
Reports of aggressive interrogation techniques first surfaced at Guantanamo Bay during the Bush administration where Al Queda operatives and in some cases, American citizens, were detained as “unlawful combatants” and therefore not subject to the Geneva Conventions which prohibits suspension of habeous corpus and torture. Mr. Brennan was employed at the agency during this time period and the heavy scrutiny the agency faced was highly publicized and portrayed in both national and international media alike, as well as being depicted in pop culture.
The involvement of Mr. Brennan, whether he was involved at all, is a topic of debate. The concept of plausible deniability argues that Mr. Brennan would certainly not have been aware of the full extent of the corruption. The main concern among opponents is that Mr. Brennan will continue in the agency’s flagrant and willful deceit of Senate Intelligence Committees and Congressional hearings. However, President Obama’s new appointment signals that he intends to turn over a new leaf in agency policy.
Former assistant CIA director and former director of the White House Intelligence Committee Mark M. Lowenthal said of Mr. Brennan, “It’s a potential minefield for John Brennan.”. The political minefield described by Mr. Lowenthal is further exacerbated by the fact that the Senate Intelligence Committee reports regarding Mr. Brennan’s involvement will create a great divide between Democrats and Republicans. Further divide is only multiplied by the extreme spectrum of political ideology on the subject with Democratic opponents citing the moral repercussions of permitting such coercive interrogation methods that they claim are a violation of human rights. Republican supporters place the critique with the Obama administration for their opposition to coercive interrogation, arguing that such methods are necessary to national security. The divide continues to grow and the road to appointment will be nothing short of a rocky one at best. Such political divide and pressure now places Mr. Brennan directly in the crosshairs of political semantics that will determine his future with the agency.