Lest I be accused of being reflexively anti-Obama, let me note for the record that I endorse his choice of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense and could give a shit about John Kerry as Secretary of State. But, when it comes to naming John Brennan to head the CIA, this is a proposal that must be killed. Brennan is the worst possible choice for the CIA.

Brennan’s fundamental weakness is that he has never eschewed kissing the ass and tonguing the balls of a superior. In fact, the word, “Brennan,” should be a synonym for sycophant. Brennan embodies every disturbing, disgusting attribute of an obsequious bureaucrat who will prostrate himself before any superior in order to gain acceptance.

When George W. Bush was running the show, John Brennan was cheerleader par excellence for water boarding. John was just a back bencher at that time, but he certainly reassured George W. Tenant and John McLaughlin (Tenant’s Deputy), that they were right in their view that Saddam Hussein had wmds that he did not in fact have. At no point did Brennan stand up and threaten to resign if they did not tell the truth. Nope. He went along with the crowd. He was (and is) a go along, get along kind of guy.

To understand Brennan you must appreciate how he wormed his way up the the CIA food chain.

Brennan is in part a creation of Bob Gates. Gates, as the Director of the CIA back in the early 1990s, pressed to use personnel from the Directorate of Intelligence in positions of authority in the Directorate of Operations. In other words, he wanted to put some analysts in charge of actual spy operations overseas. Did not matter that they were totally unqualified for such a position by virtue of experience. Gates was keen on promoting careerists without worrying about the consequences on tradecraft. Beneficiaries of Gates’ initiative included my old boss from the Middle American Caribbean Division (Marty R.) and Dave Cohen (who subsequently did a stint as the Deputy Director of Operations at the CIA) and Johnny Brennan.

Brennan was named as the guy in charge of CIA spy operations in Saudi Arabia in 1996 even though he had no experience–ZERO EXPERIENCE–as a CIA field officer. While this happened subsequent to Gates, it was a continuation of Gates’ legacy at CIA. A guy with no field experience was put in charge of CIA spy operations in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

And how did that work out? I know first hand from a buddy who was on the ground in Saudi Arabia at that time that Brennan went along with the Saudi insistence that the CIA not–I REPEAT NOT–collect any intelligence on terrorist targets or activities. It should be no surprise, therefore, that a group linked to Al Qeada carried out the June 1996 terrorist attack against Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. That attack killed 19 Americans and we were caught flat footed.

Did Brennan get punished or held accountable? Hell, no. As is typical of Washington, he was promoted. This is an old CIA principle–fuck ups get ahead.

So come 9-11 and the aftermath. Brennan, who claims to be something of an expert on the Middle East, remained deaf, dumb and mute as the Bush Administration worked frantically to gin up a case to invade Iraq. Brennan could have served the interest of the people of the United States if he had stood up and challenged the bullshit case for going to war with Iraq. But he did not. He encouraged it.

Per CNS News:

From 1999 to 2001, he served as chief of staff to George Tenet, who served as CIA director in both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. Brennan and Tenet both spoke to the 9/11 Commission during the 2004 hearings investigating intelligence failures that allowed the attack to occur.

Brennan was promoted to deputy executive director of the CIA, a role he held from 2001 to 2003. It was during that period that the Bush administration launched the war in Iraq on the belief that the country had weapons of mass destruction.

In March 2003, Tenet named Brennan as director of the new Terrorist Threat Integration Center. The TTIC was designed to be a clearinghouse for all foreign and domestic terrorism analysis to assure coordination among various federal agencies.

As I described in an previous post, Brennan completely failed as the Director of TTIC when he neglected to double check the data delivered to the Department of State in January 2004 describing the number of terrorist attacks for 2003. He left out a month and one half of date. That error led to the spectacle of then Secretary of State Colin Powell touting the decline in terrorism, only then having to make the rounds on the Sunday new shows a month later apologizing for the false information. Terrorism had actually increased. That debacle occurred thanks to John Brennan’s incompetence.

Brennan opted out of being presented for nomination in 2009. Instead, he became Obama’s number one guy for terrorism in the National Security Council. But once again, the toadiness of Brennan overcame any instinct to conduct himselfe as a professional intelligence officer. This is the quintessential Brennan. A true intelligence professional is prepared to tell the political principal uncomfortable truths. A toady like Brennan does just the opposite–he tells the politician what he thinks the politician wants to hear.

In 2007, when Bush was still President and waterboarding was okay, Brennan offered up his version of political fellatio on Bush:

In an interview on the CBS Early Show on Nov. 2, 2007, reporter Harry Smith asked Brennan, “The president has gone on record so many times saying the United States does not torture. If we acknowledge that this kind of activity goes on, you know, what does that mean, exactly, I guess?”

Brennan answered, “Well, the CIA has acknowledged that it has detained about 100 terrorists since 9/11, and about a third of them have been subjected to what the CIA refers to as enhanced interrogation tactics, and only a small proportion of those have in fact been subjected to the most serious types of enhanced procedures.”

Smith followed, “And you say some of this has born fruit.”

Brennan answered, “There has been a lot of information that has come out from these interrogation procedures that the agency has in fact used against the real hard-core terrorists. It has saved lives. And let’s not forget, these are hardened terrorists who have been responsible for 9/11, who have shown no remorse at all for the deaths of 3,000 innocents.”

Of course, that was when Bush was in charge. But when Obama took over? A new tune from Brennan:

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This is the critical point that disqualifies Brennan from heading up the CIA. The Director of the CIA is supposed to be the Dutch Uncle–he’s the guy (or gal) who tells the President uncomfortable truths without worrying about the political consequences. That is not Brennan. Brennan would be better off as a National Security Advisor. That position rewards someone willing to kiss the President’s ass. A CIA Director, at least in theory, is the person who should be willing to tell the President he is wrong if necessary. Brennan, the consummate ass kisser, is incapable of doing that.

If Brennan is named to head the CIA, his appointment will mark the nail in the coffin of the CIA. The CIA will now be fully a political organization incapable of telling the President the truth. Such a development augers ill for the future of the American Republic.

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Larry C. Johnson is a former analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, who moved subsequently in 1989 to the U.S. Department of State, where he served four years as the deputy director for transportation security, antiterrorism assistance training, and special operations in the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism. He left government service in October 1993 and set up a consulting business. He currently is the co-owner and CEO of BERG Associates, LLC (Business Exposure Reduction Group) and is an expert in the fields of terrorism, aviation security, and crisis and risk management, and money laundering investigations. Johnson is the founder and main author of No Quarter, a weblog that addresses issues of terrorism and intelligence and politics. NoQuarterUSA was nominated as Best Political Blog of 2008.
  • blogforceone

    Brennan’s confirmation as Dir. of the CIA will complete the virtual dissolution of the CIA as an independent Cabinet post. It will become an ossified relic of the past as the Director of National intelligence will subsume whats left of any independent thought or analysis coming from the agency. This will be in concert with the “downsizing” of the DOD to a more “manageable” size. The U.S. Govt will then outsource the majority of our intelligence gathering by the DOD and the various intelligence departments to foreign “allies” and rely on their recommendations just as we did prior to the Khobar Towers Debacle in Saudi Arabia, What a shame that our future security will be sacrificed for political expediency and an overseas world view of U.S. power. anyone for reading the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Gibbon?

  • Raymond McGovern

    Again it sounds like you have a personal beef with Brennan.

    “John Brennan was cheerleader par excellence for water boarding.”

    That is actually not true. Brennan in 2007 was very clear that water-boarding was torture and that he was against it.

    “If Brennan is named to head the CIA, his appointment will mark the nail in the coffin of the CIA.”

    Such a drama queen. End of the CIA with Brennan? Come on. He has been a massive backer and supporter of the CIA.

    • Hokma

      “He has been a massive backer and supporter of the CIA.”

      In one way you are right. he is responsible for getting them a lot of press.

    • http://noquarterusa.net Larry Johnson

      You really are a moron. The last thing the CIA needs is to put politics first


    Makes no sense. Now Brennan is going to report to Clapper? D/CIA reports to DNI reports to NSC. Now former NSC going to report to DNI?

    • Retired_from_SPOnaj

      AT NSC, Brennan was a staffer. As Director of CIA, he has line authority over a Federal agency of considerable power and capability. He also has a direct line to the Oval Office. As a practical matter, Clapper will be easily circumvented.

  • Retired_from_SPOnaj

    In the last issue of the newsletter that the CIA sends out to retirees, current Acting Director Mike Morrell really goes over the top[ in sucking up to Brennan, presumably so that he can stay on as Deputy Director, or at least in some position of authority. Ironically, Morrell will probably be the first casualty in the Agency’s senior executive management ranks as Brennan has long despised fellow toady Morrell. Frog’s legs soup, anyone?

  • no_longer_a_democrat

    Thanks for this post. Good information to know.

    I remember from news reports, George Tenet’s line in response to something about does Iraq have WMD? and line I was was “slam dunk”. Was Brennan the main and sole reason Tenet made this assertion?

  • TeakWoodKite

    Thanks LJ for pointing out the slimy toad has no principles save his own needs for ass kissing.

    For me, if you believe that torture is a productive method of getting the truth from someone then that is a position you defend. If you believe, as I do, that “enhanced interrogation” is NOT a sane way to go, then defend it.

    You can not have it both ways.

    Brennan is a product of his superiors needing a “yes” man that they could control. That is how it works at that altitude. How on earth does a foriegn nation like Saudi get to say no to fishing in the most fertile grounds of sulifish? Like anyone worth their salt would do so? Phft!


    I watched Fair Game last night on tv. got mad all over again.

    my own opinion as an armchair warrior, but an American citizen.

    I want someone who gives good information that help people make the right decision. Going to war is damn serious and should never be done lightly without all the facts.
    There are enough YES men in DC we do not need any more in positions that could harm the country

  • DianaLC


    I understand completely why you are against Brennan as head of the CIA. You make the most valid point against him when you say he will not speak up to tell hard truths.

    To me, that is the major problem with all our governmant in D.C. I feel helpless, except I can always do what I do–something that earns me only a polite but vacuous reply from my congressional representative. I do it all the time, and then I worry that all it does is teach staffers and interns that sending vacuous replies is the way to govern.
    But I promise to send one again, this time to ask that no one agrees to Brennan’s appointment.

  • Hokma

    Brennan is perfect for what Obama needs as is Kerry and Hagel.

    If the assumption that Obama wants the best and the brightest then you are correct.

    But Obama has a mission and a goal and only wants men (white men) who will advance his objectives. Brennan fits that much the same way Holder fits that as the Attorney General. That is evident.

  • elizabethrc

    I agree that most of the low-information public prefer to go their merry way without looking at unpleasant truths. Unfortunately, the end of this past week has made truth hit them in the face with the decrease in their take home checks. I’ve always felt that the most important thing to those folks is pocketbook issues. They were led to believe that Obama was looking out for them, would give them more and more unearned monies and entitlements.
    Now let’s see how they react as reality hits home with this as well as increased healthcare costs, more and more intrusion on their independent decision making (these uber-regulations O’s putting in place are going to hit them, too). I hear more and more grumbling, even from the msm.
    As to Brennan, isn’t he just a typical Obama appointee? This thin skinned President can’t seem to tolerate having anyone disagree with his mindset and decisions. The result? Overreaching of his authority and Constitutional strictures. I think even Congress is beginning to squirm a little as he more and more frequently by passes them. With their collective egos, I doubt they’ll tolerate being made superfluous.
    These, to me, are rays of hope for our future. Even the most benign dog will bite when cornered and mistreated.

  • KenoshaMarge

    We have seen what happens when the “Justice” Department becomes simply the political arm of an administration. Any Administration.

    Now I fear that we are about to see the CIA become the same. Ass-kissers, liars and incompetents win, The USA loses.

    Most of the low-information public couldn’t give a shit as long as they get their latest IPod or whatever.

    Never have so many had so many ways to say so much that is so totally, completely useless.
    Any competent, investigative journalism? MIA