John Brennan

individual
© Image Copyright : Photo from Wikimedia Commons / Author of Photo: Pete Souza -- The White House from Washington, DC / Source of Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/obamawhitehouse/4245345995/

Overview

  • Longtime CIA official
  • Served as a senior advisor to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign
  • Said in 2009 that he was “pleased to see that a lot of Hezbollah individuals are in fact renouncing … terrorism and violence and are trying to participate in the political process in a very legitimate fashion”
  • Believes that tactics like waterboarding are not only inconsistent with “our ideals as a nation,” but also “undermine our national security” because they “are a recruitment bonanza for terrorists”
  • Explains that “jihad” means “to purify oneself or to wage a holy struggle for a moral goal”
  • In 2011, he called for the FBI to eliminate its “offensive” curriculum/training materials which made reference to “jihad” and “radical Islam.”
  • Was appointed as CIA director by President Barack Obama in 2013

Early Years

Born in northern New Jersey on September 22, 1955, John Brennan earned a B.A. in political science from Fordham University in 1977.

Voted for Communist Party Candidate in 1976 Presidential Election

In 1976 Brennan voted for Communist Party USA (CPUSA) presidential nominee Gus Hall. As historian Ron Radosh points out, “The CPUSA at that time was dedicated to gaining support for Soviet foreign policy, with the intent of defeating the United States in the Cold War…. Moscow regularly gave Hall thousands of dollars to enable the Communists in America to carry on their work.” Brennan has explained that his motivation for supporting Hall, was that he (Brennan) was unhappy “with the system” and saw a “need for change.”

Says That Government Censorship of Media May Sometimes Be Warranted

In 1980 Brennan earned an M.A. in government from the University of Texas at Austin. In his graduate thesis, he denied the existence of “absolute human rights” and argued that censorship by the government was sometimes in order. “Since the press can play such an influential role in determining the perceptions of the masses, I am in favor of some degree of government censorship,” Brennan wrote. “Inflamatory [sic] articles can provoke mass opposition and possible violence, especially in developing political systems.”

Brennan Advises Against U.S. Killing Osama bin Laden in 1998

Also in 1980, Brennan joined the CIA as an intelligence director, and in 1994-95 he served a stint as a daily intelligence briefer for President Bill Clinton. In 1998 Brennan played a key role in preventing an American operation that would have killed or captured Osama bin Laden, and instead he advised the U.S. to let Saudi Arabia deal with the al Qaeda leader. A few months later, bin Laden masterminded the deadly bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa; three years after that, he carried out the 9/11 attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Nonetheless, Brennan maintained that he had done the right thing by advising against the 1998 strike targeting bin Laden, on grounds that “it was not well grounded in intelligence and its chances of success were minimal, and it was likely that other individuals were going to be killed” in the process.

Brennan’s Work with the CIA, the National Counterterrorism Center, & the National Security Alliance

In 1999, CIA director George Tenet appointed Brennan as his chief of staff. From March 2001 until 2003, Brennan served as the CIA’s deputy executive director. In 2003-04 he headed the newly created Terrorist Threat Integration Center, and in 2004-05 he directed the National Counterterrorism Center, a federal government organization responsible for counterterrorism efforts. In 2005 Brennan left government to become CEO of the Analysis Corporation, a Virginia-based company that supported the government’s counterterrorism endeavors. He also chaired the Intelligence & National Security Alliance, a non-profit professional organization for public- and private-sector members of the United States Intelligence Community.

Seeking to Engage Diplomatically with Hezbollah, Hamas, & Iran

In a 2006 interview on C-SPAN, Brennan spoke of the Islamic terrorist group Hezbollah as an entity that merited a seat at the negotiating table along with the representatives of national governments from across the globe: “It would be nice to be able to put Hezbollah in a category of being totally evil, but Hezbollah as an organization is a very complex one that has a terrorist arm to it. It has a social and political nature to it as well.”

In a paper he published in July 2008, Brennan called on U.S. officials to “cease public Iran-bashing,” and he advised the United States to “tolerate, and even … encourage, greater assimilation of Hezbollah into Lebanon’s political system, a process that is subject to Iranian influence.” Indeed, he saw the recent increase of political involvement by Hezbollah as a very positive development: “Not coincidentally, the evolution of Hezbollah into a fully vested player in the Lebanese political system has been accompanied by a marked reduction in terrorist attacks carried out by the organization. The best hope for maintaining this trend and for reducing the influence of violent extremists within the organization—as well as the influence of extremist Iranian officials who view Hezbollah primarily as a pawn of Tehran—is to increase Hezbollah’s stake in Lebanon’s struggling democratic processes.”[1]

In that same 2008 paper, Brennan endorsed direct political and diplomatic engagement with Iran despite its status as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. According to terrorism expert Steven Emerson: “He [Brennan] minimized the threat of Iran’s nuclear weapons program and blamed American rhetoric as ‘brash labeling’ for hardening Tehran’s position toward the United States.”

In August 2009, Brennan said he was “pleased to see that a lot of Hezbollah individuals are in fact renouncing … terrorism and violence and are trying to participate in the political process in a very legitimate fashion.” “Hamas,” he added, had “started out as a very focused social organization that was providing welfare to Palestinians,” but eventually “developed an extremist and terrorist element” that “unfortunately delegitimized it in the eyes of many” and diminished the chances of the Palestinian people getting “what they truly deserve, which is a Palestinian state side-by-side with Israel.” The Nation reporter Robert Dreyfuss, meanwhile, revealed that Brennan had once told him that (as Dreyfuss paraphrased): “talking to Hamas and Hezbollah is the right thing to do.”

In a February 2010 speech to Islamic law students at New York University, Brennan called Hezbollah “a very interesting organization” whose “more moderate elements” the U.S. should strive to “build up.”[2]

Three months later, Brennan said that the Obama administration was trying to establish a positive relationship with “moderate elements” of Hezbollah.

When reporter Patrick Poole in September 2010 revealed that under Brennan’s watch, a known, high-level Hamas official in the U.S. had received a guided tour of the top-secret National Counterterrorism Center and FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia, several former intelligence and defense officials called for Brennan to resign.

Brennan’s Flip-Flop on the Use of “Enhanced Interrogation” & “Extraordinary Rendition”

When news of the George W. Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping initiative made headlines in late 2005, Brennan defended the practice and maintained that the telecommunication companies participating in the program “should be granted … immunity, because they were told to [participate] by the appropriate authorities that were operating in a legal context.” Brennan also supported “enhanced interrogation” techniques, and he described “extraordinary rendition” as “an absolutely vital tool” that “without a doubt has been very successful as far as producing intelligence that has saved lives.” In a 2007 interview with CBS News, Brennan stated that waterboarding in particular was a highly useful practice: “There has been a lot of information that has come out from these interrogation procedures that the agency [CIA] has, in fact, used against the real hard-core terrorists. It has saved lives.”

Brennan subsequently departed from those positions when he served as a senior advisor to Barack Obama‘s 2008 presidential campaign. In a letter to Obama, for example, Brennan called himself “a strong opponent of many of the policies of the Bush administration, such as the preemptive war in Iraq and coercive interrogation tactics, to include waterboarding.”

In August 2009, Brennan said that tactics like waterboarding were not only inconsistent with “our ideals as a nation,” but also “undermine our national security” because they “are a recruitment bonanza for terrorists, increase the determination of our enemies, and decrease the willingness of other nations to cooperate with us.”

During his Senate confirmation hearing for the position of CIA director on February 7, 2013, Brennan called waterboarding a “reprehensible” practice that “never should’ve taken place in my view.” “As far as I’m concerned, waterboarding is something that never should’ve been employed,” he told Senator Carl Levin, “and, as far I’m concerned, never will be if I have anything to do with it.”

National Security Adviser for Counterterrorism

After Barack Obama’s victory in the 2008 presidential election, Brennan was widely regarded as the leading contender for the position of CIA director, but he withdrew his name from consideration when analysts noted that his previous support for enhanced interrogation was inconsistent with Obama’s stated opposition to the practice. In January 2009, Obama appointed Brennan as deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism—a post that, unlike CIA director, did not require Senate confirmation.

Dispensing with the Terms “Terrorism,” “Jihad,” & “Islamist”

In August 2009, Brennan detailed for the first time the Obama administration’s decision to dispense with the term “global war on terror.” Emphasizing the need to target “extremists” rather than “jihadists,” Brennan explained that “jihad” means “to purify oneself or to wage a holy struggle for a moral goal.” The use of that term, he elaborated, “risks giving these murderers the religious legitimacy they desperately seek but in no way deserve. Worse, it risks reinforcing the idea that the United States is somehow at war with Islam itself.” Adding that it was vital “to confront the broader political, economic and social conditions in which extremists thrive,” Brennan called terrorism “the final murderous manifestation of a long process rooted in hopelessness, humiliation, and hatred.”

Brennan revisited this theme in 2010 when he said: “Nor do we describe our enemy as ‘jihadists’ or ‘Islamists’ because jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam, meaning to purify oneself or one’s community.”

In 2010 as well , Brennan met privately with Muslim Public Affairs Council founder Salam al-Marayati, who viewed Hamas and Hezbollah as political and “educational” organizations that engage in “legitimate resistance.” After the meeting, MPAC claimed credit for the Obama administration’s decision to, as MPAC put it: “rejec[t] the label of ‘jihadist’ to describe terrorists, because it legitimates violent extremism with religious validation, a point MPAC made in its 2003 policy paper on counterterrorism.”

On October 19, 2011, Farhana Khera, president and executive director of the organization Muslim Advocates, sent Brennan a letter charging that the FBI was a bigoted agency which kept “antiquated and offensive documents about Muslims and Islam” on its intranet, and that some of the Bureau’s new recruits were being taught “that Islam is a religion that ‘transforms a country’s culture into 7th-century Arabian ways.’” Within two weeks, Brennan capitulated to Khera’s demand that the FBI eliminate its “offensive” curriculum/training materials; i.e., he called for a purge of any and all materials that made reference to “jihad” or “radical Islam.” In a written response to Khera, Brennan said: “I am aware of the recent unfortunate incidents that have highlighted examples of substandard and offensive training that some United States Government elements have either sponsored or delivered. Any and all such training runs completely counter to our values, [and] our commitment to strong partnerships with communities across the country…” Brennan added that the Obama administration had already initiated a review of all FBI and Department of Homeland Security training materials on the subject of “countering violent extremism.” He also assured Khera that the administration would do everything in its power to improve “cultural competency training across the United States Government,” and to emphasize “cultural awareness.”

Treating Terrorist Acts As Criminal Matters Rather Than As Acts of War

On Christmas Day 2009, Nigerian al Qaeda operative Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted, unsuccessfully, to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight (from Amsterdam to Detroit) in midair with a powerful chemical bomb. In the aftermath of the incident, Brennan explained that the Obama administration would treat it as a law-enforcement matter rather than as an act of war or terrorism; that the perpetrator would be offered a plea agreement in exchange for information about al Qaeda operations in Yemen; and that if such an agreement could not be worked out, Abdulmutallab would be tried in a federal civilian court rather than in a military tribunal. When some commentators subsequently complained that Abdulmutallab’s name had never been added to the U.S. “no-fly” list even though his own father had warned CIA officials about his son’s radicalization, Brennan claimed that their “politically motivated criticism and unfounded fear-mongering” would “only serve the goals of al-Qaeda.”

Brennan sought to try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in a civilian court as well, stating, in a February 2010 speech to Islamic law students at New York University, that “we need to bring him to justice in an American court”—a goal the Obama administration eventually abandoned, due to the plan’s unpopularity with the U.S. public.

Brennan Refers to Jerusalem As “Al-Quds,” Dismisses Concerns About Freed Guantanamo Detainees Reverting to Terrorism, & Casts Terrorism As a Reaction to Injustice

Also during his NYU speech in February 2010, which was set up by the Islamic Society of North America, Brennan referred to Jerusalem by its Arabic name, “Al-Quds”; stated that the 20% recidivism rate of former Guantanamo detainees was “not that bad” when compared to criminal recidivism trends generally; and asserted that “while poverty and lack of opportunity do not cause terrorism, it is obvious that the lack of education, of basic human services and hope for the future make vulnerable populations more susceptible to ideologies of violence and death.”

Brennan Lies About Targeted Drone Strikes

On March 17, 2011, forty-two Pakistanis — mostly civilians — were killed in a major CIA drone strike on the town of Datta Khel in North Waziristan. The incident was widely reported by the media and was angrily denounced by Pakistan’s government. An anonymous U.S. official later justified the attack as one that had targeted “a large group of heavily armed men, some of whom were clearly connected to Al Qaeda [AQ] and all of whom acted in a manner consistent with AQ-linked militants.” But in fact, the gathering was eventually confirmed to have been a jirga, or tribal meeting, convened to address a local mining-related dispute. The dead included dozens of tribal elders and local policemen, as well as a small number of Taliban.

But three months later, in a June 29 speech, Brennan claimed that the March 17 drone attack had not resulted in even “a single collateral death.” In fact, he went even further: “I can say that the types of operations… that the U.S. has been involved in, in the counter-terrorism realm, that nearly for the past year there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities that we’ve been able to develop.”

Brennan’s claim was untrue, however, as noted in a report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ): “The Datta Khel attack was not the only time that civilians had died in the period referred to by Brennan. Working with veteran Pakistani reporter Rahimullah Yusufzai and field researchers in the tribal areas, the Bureau identified and published details of 45 civilians known at the time to have been killed by CIA drones in ten strikes between August 2010 and June 2011, the date of Brennan’s speech. Many of those killed had died at Datta Khel.” When the BIJ shared its findings with the Obama White House and Brennan’s office in July 2011, both chose to issue no comment.

In April 2012, George Stephanopoulos of ABC News said to Brennan: “Do you stand by the statement you have made in the past that, as effective as they have been, [drones] have not killed a single civilian? That seems hard to believe.” Brennan replied: “What I said was that over a period of time before my public remarks that we had no information about a single civilian, a noncombatant being killed.”

Brennan Dismisses the Notion That Islamic Terrorists Might Seek to Establish a Caliphate

Speaking in June 2011 about how the Obama administration would deal with terrorism following the recent death of Osama bin Laden, Brennan dismissed any notion that Islamic terrorists might attempt to build a caliphate in the Middle East. “Our strategy is shaped by a deeper understanding of al-Qaeda’s goals, strategy and tactics that we have gained over the last decade,” said Brennan. “I’m not talking about al-Qaeda’s grandiose vision of global domination through a violent Islamic caliphate. That vision is absurd, and we are not going to organize our counter-terrorist polices against a feckless delusion that is never going to happen…. We are not going to elevate these thugs and their murderous aspirations into something larger than they really are.”

Events over the ensuing three years, however, would prove Brennan wrong. On June 29, 2014, ISIS announced the existence of what it called a new Islamic caliphate that would thenceforth go by the name “Islamic State” (IS) and would recognize no existing national borders. By November 2014, the organization controlled some 100,000 square kilometers of territory in the Middle East.

Lying About the 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi

In September 2012, Brennan was involved in crafting the false talking points that then-Secretary of State Susan Rice delivered during five separate television interviews regarding the 9/11/12 terrorist attack against a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. Specifically, Rice claimed that according to the “best information at present,” the deadly attack was not premeditated, but rather, was a “spontaneous reaction” to “a hateful and offensive [anti-Islamic] video that was widely disseminated throughout the Arab and Muslim world.”

CIA Director

On January 7, 2013, President Obama nominated Brennan for the position of CIA director.  On March 7, 2013, the Senate confirmed Brennan for the post by a margin of 63-34.

Allegation That Brennan Converted to Islam

Brennan has publicly praised “the goodness and beauty of Islam,” which he characterizes as “a faith of peace and tolerance.” “The tremendous warmth of Islamic cultures and societies,” he said in 2010, typically makes visitors from non-Muslim lands feel very “welcomed.”

In February 2013, John Guandolo, a onetime Marine who subsequently worked eight years in the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division as a “subject matter expert” regarding the Muslim Brotherhood and the global spread of Islam, stated that Brennan had converted to Islam years earlier in Saudi Arabia:

“Mr. Brennan did convert to Islam when he served in an official capacity on the behalf of the United States in Saudi Arabia. That fact alone is not what is most disturbing. His conversion to Islam was the culmination of a counterintelligence operation against him to recruit him. The fact that foreign intelligence service operatives recruited Mr. Brennan when he was in a very sensitive and senior U.S. government position in a foreign country means that he either is a traitor … [or] he has the inability to discern and understand how to walk in those kinds of environments, which makes him completely unfit to be the director of Central Intelligence…. The facts of the matter are confirmed by U.S. government officials who were also in Saudi Arabia at the time that John Brennan was serving there and have direct knowledge. These are men who work in very trusted positions, they were direct witnesses to his growing relationship with the individuals who worked for the Saudi government and others and they witnessed his conversion to Islam.”

Guandolo’s claim about Brennan’s conversion has not been corroborated by any other source.

Brennan’s Deception Regarding the Survivors of the Benghazi Terrorist Attacks

At a May 21, 2013 CIA ceremony honoring the Agency officials killed in the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, several CIA officers who had survived those attacks were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs)—despite the fact that those officers were now leaving government service and were still bound by previous NDAs which they had signed. Both before and after the May 21 NDAs, intelligence officials adamantly denied that anyone affiliated with the CIA had been asked to sign nondisclosure agreements regarding the events in Benghazi. Perhaps the most notable of those denials came in a September 3, 2013 letter from CIA director Brennan to House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence chairman Mike Rogers, in which Brennan explicitly said that no CIA staffer or contractor had ever been forced to undergo any polygraph or sign any non-disclosure agreement because of their presence or their participation in any activity related to Benghazi attacks.

According to sources familiar with the NDAs that were presented to the Benghazi survivors at the May 21 memorial service, the documents did not specifically mention the Benghazi attacks and thus were technically consistent with Brennan’s letter. But as a Weekly Standard analysis noted:

“That’s a generous interpretation. The new NDAs were presented to Benghazi survivors after they had flown in from around the country (or world) to attend a CIA memorial for the Benghazi fallen at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia—where the attacks in Benghazi were the focus of the day. It’s hardly a leap to imagine that these NDAs, perhaps not even necessary, were intended to remind CIA officials a little more than six months removed from their service in Benghazi that the U.S. government would prefer that they not discuss what happened there.”

Senator Feinstein Accuses Brennan’s CIA of Hacking into Computers of Senate Intelligence Committee

In March 2014, Senator Dianne Feinstein—the head of a Senate Intelligence Committee that was involved in a multi-year probe (begun in 2009) of the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation measures against suspected terrorists during the Bush Administration—went to the Senate floor and angrily accused the Agency of having hacked into the computers of her Committee staffers. In response, Brennan expressed dismay that “some members of the Senate” were making “spurious allegations about CIA actions that are wholly unsupported by the facts.” Moreover, he demanded an end to “outbursts that do a disservice to the important relationship that needs to be maintained between intelligence officials and Congressional overseers.” Brennan also told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell: “As far as the allegations of the CIA hacking into Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth. We wouldn’t do that. I mean, that’s just beyond the, you know, the scope of reason in terms of what we do.” Brennan likewise told the media that “a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous sort of spying and monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong.”

But according to the findings of a CIA inspector general’s report that was released on July 31, 2014, it was actually Brennan who was proved wrong. The report indicated that five CIA employees—two attorneys and three computer specialists—indeed had surreptitiously and unlawfully searched files and emails on the computers of the aforementioned Senate investigators. In response to the report, Brennan apologized to Senate Intelligence Committee leaders.

Committee members were infuriated, however. Democrat Senator Mark Udall, for example, called for Brennan’s resignation, citing “the unprecedented hacking of congressional staff computers,” damaging leaks about the Committee’s investigations, and Brennan’s “abject failure to acknowledge any wrongdoing by the agency.” By contrast, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that President Obama continued to support Brennan and had “not at all” lost faith in the CIA leader’s credibility.

Brennan’s “Modernization” Program at the CIA

In March 2015, Brennan announced a so-called modernization program that, as retired 25-year veteran CIA officer Brad Johnson would later explain, “systematically dismantled and destroyed the CIA’s operations division — the heart of the agency’s central mission of using people to steal vital secrets around the world.” “Many of us who devoted our lives to the clandestine service as CIA operations officers,” Johnson added, “were stunned to hear Mr. Brennan announce that based on his ‘modernization’ plan, he no longer regards the CIA as being in the espionage business. ‘We don’t steal secrets,’ Mr. Brennan astonishingly stated in an interview with NPR.” Elaborating further, Johnson continued: “The Brennan plan instead called for other nations’ intelligence services to provide the CIA with spies as intelligence collectors. Real espionage is the direct recruitment of spies or reporting sources who steal information from other countries or organizations such as terrorists. An important feature of this process is that no one should know that our spies are stealing the information. Keeping the operations clandestine is fundamental to the credibility and reliability of the information. When another intelligence service selects spies for the CIA, the information provided could easily be mixed with damaging disinformation, and we have no way to be sure of who else is aware we are receiving the information.”

By Johnson’s telling, Brennan’s modernization initiative was a manifestation of a new philosophy that, in recent years, had caused America’s Intelligence Community to “turn away from its core responsibilities” – i.e., promoting “the safety and security of all Americans” – and to instead embrace “a far more political agenda.” Johnson noted, for example, that the Intelligence Community’s 2017 quadrennial report about global trends “overwhelmingly” supported “global government integration” and the “globalist movement,” which he described as “a hardcore leftist philosophy that is deeply political” and antithetical to the concept of national sovereignty.

Brennan Says That the Terror Group ISIS Is Not Islamic

In a March 2015 speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, Brennan refused to refer to the Islamic State (ISIS, a.k.a. ISIL) terror group as an “Islamic” entity. Said the CIA director:

“[Q]uite frankly I am amused at the debate that goes on [that] unless you call it [Islamic terrorism] what it is, you don’t know what you’re fighting. And let’s make it very clear that the people who carry out acts of terrorism, whether it be Al Qaeda or the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant [ISIS], are doing it because they believe it is consistent with what their view of Islam is. It is totally inconsistent with what the overwhelming majority of Muslims throughout the world [believe]. And so by ascribing [sic] it as a Muslim terrorism or Islamic extremism — I think it does really give them the type of Islamic legitimacy that they are so desperately seeking, but which they don’t deserve at all. They are terrorists, they’re criminals. Many of them are psychopathic thugs, murderers, who use a religious concept and masquerade, mask themselves, in that religious construct. And I do think it does injustice to the tenets of religion when we attach a religious moniker to [ISIS]. The Muslims I know … The people I’ve worked with throughout the Middle East most of my career find just disgraceful that these individuals present themselves as Muslims…. The words we use can have resonance … [W]hat they [ISIS terrorists] do has no basis in any upstanding religions.”

John Brennan and Unmasking

In the course of conducting intelligence operations on terrorist organizations or other foreign entities, American national security agents often collect information on “U.S. persons” – a term of art referring to United States citizens and lawful permanent residents – who are not under surveillance themselves. The intelligence community refers to such occurrences as examples of “incidental collection.” In incidentally collected communications, the name of the person whose conversations have been intercepted is supposed to be redacted or “masked” – i.e., replaced with a generic identifier – unless the information is thought to have value as foreign intelligence. Masking is carried out to protect individuals who may get inadvertently caught up in an electronic dragnet, from being falsely accused of crimes or of otherwise improper behavior.

Conversely, the “unmasking” of a “U.S. person” – i.e., the identification of such an individual by name – is an extraordinarily powerful tool that requires review at the highest levels of government. Only the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA are authorized to unmask U.S. persons, and then only for reasons of national security. And if these agencies do unmask someone, his or her identity may only released to the few intelligence officials (about 20 or so) who are authorized to make an unmasking request. In short, the practice of unmasking is not in itself illegal, but the leaking of an unmasked person’s identity to anyone other than the aforementioned small group of intelligence officials, is.

In 2017 it became known that during the previous year, some Obama administration officials – including UN Ambassador Samantha Power and National Security Adviser Susan Rice – had made numerous requests for the unmasking of individuals close to Donald Trump and his presidential campaign. In testimony that he gave to the House Intelligence Committee in May 2017, Brennan said that “the intelligence community goes to great lengths to cover the identity of U.S. persons if they may be uncovered, but happen to be included in U.S. intelligence collection.” When Rep. Trey Gowdy asked Brennan whether he had “ever requested that a U.S. person’s name be unmasked,” Brennan replied, “Yes, I have.” When Gowdy asked him if ambassadors had ever requested that certain names be unmasked during his tenure at the CIA, Brennan replied: “I don’t, I don’t know. Maybe it’s ringing a vague bell, but I’m not — I could not answer with any confidence.”

Brennan also said in his testimony: “I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the [Donald] Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals.” Further, he asserted that Russia had “brazenly interfered” in the 2016 presidential election, and that persons close to Trump had been Russian pawns, either “wittingly or unwittingly.”

Brennan Lies to Congress About the Steele Dossier

In May 2017, Brennan lied to Congress when he testified that: (a) he did not know who had commissioned the infamous Steele dossier,[3] which contained many false accusations against Donald Trump and his political allies, and (b) the CIA had not relied on the dossier’s contents for any action that the Agency took.

Brennan Is Angry When Trump Fires the FBI Acting Director, Andrew McCabe

Brennan was outraged when, in March 2018, President Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, fired Andrew McCabe, who had been the FBI’s acting director from May 9, 2017 through August 2, 2017. Addressing Trump in writing, Brennan wrote: “When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America . . . America will triumph over you.” In April 2018, Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz transmitted a long-awaited report to Congress detailing the enormous dishonesty and political partisanship that McCabe had exhibited during his tenure at the Bureau.

Brennan Calls Trump’s Remarks “Nothing Short of Treasonous”

Brennan was similarly outraged in July 2018, by President Trump’s remarks at a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. At that event, Trump expressed doubt about a U.S. Intelligence Community assessment claiming that Russian operatives had interfered in America’s 2016 presidential election, and he suggested that he had at least as much faith in the Russian KGB as he had in the American CIA. Later that day, Brennan described Trump’s comments as “nothing short of treasonous.” In an interview the following day on MSNBC, Brennan said: “What Mr. Trump did yesterday was to betray the women and men of the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, and others, and to betray the American public. And that’s why I use the term that this was ‘nothing short of treasonous.’ Because it is a betrayal of the nation. He’s giving aid and comfort to the enemy.”

President Trump Revokes Brennan’s Security Clearance

In August 2018, President Trump revoked Brennan’s security clearance, explaining that Brennan’s “lying and recent conduct characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary” was “wholly inconsistent with access to the nation’s most closely held secrets and facilities, the very aim of our adversaries, which is to sow division and chaos.” In response, Brennan told NBC’s Meet the Press that Trump’s move was “treasonous.”

Brennan Says That President Trump “Plays to” a “Very Debased Group of People”

In a February 2020 interview on MSNBC, Brennan discussed some public comments that President Trump had made defending former campaign adviser Roger Stone (who had recently been sentenced to prison) and criticizing former FBI director James Comey. “He’s clearly giving every indication he wants to act like a mob boss,” Brennan said of Trump. “And he’s going to try to take care of him and his soldiers. It’s outrageous he would try to make any moral equivalency between someone like Roger Stone, who the judge said has trampled the law, and public servants like James Comey and others who really tried their best. You can question their decisions and judgments but really were trying to carry out their duties responsibly and with integrity.” Added Brennan: “There were people in that audience [listening to Trump] that unfortunately I did hear laughter at the things he was saying about these individuals and talking about [former FBI agent] Peter Strzok and [FBI lawyer] Lisa Page and others. I mean, he just plays to this very debased group of people who are listening to what he is saying in terms of just trashing good public servants and defending people like Roger Stone? I mean, give me a break.”

Brennan Suppressed Intelligence Indicating That Russia Wanted Hillary Clinton to Win the 2016 Presidential Election

In April 2020, Fred Fleitz — who served as the White House National Security Council chief of staff in 2018 and also has worked for the CIA, the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, the Department of State, and the House Intelligence Committee — published an op-ed with damning information about Brennan. In the piece, Fleitz stated that Brennan, during his time as CIA director, had suppressed intelligence indicating that in 2016 Russia: (a) wanted Hillary Clinton to win the U.S. presidential election, and (b) conducted a disinformation campaign designed to tarnish Trump. Wrote Fleitz:

“House Intelligence Committee staff members … told me there was conflicting intelligence evidence on Russian motivations for meddling in the 2016 election. More gravely, they said that CIA Director Brennan suppressed facts or analysis that showed why it was not in Russia’s interests to support Trump and why Putin stood to benefit from Hillary Clinton’s election. They also told me that Brennan suppressed that intelligence over the objections of CIA analysts.

“House Intelligence Committee staff told me that after an exhaustive investigation reviewing intelligence and interviewing intelligence officers, they found that Brennan suppressed high-quality intelligence suggesting that Putin actually wanted the more predictable and malleable Clinton to win the 2016 election. Instead, the Brennan team included low-quality intelligence that failed to meet intelligence community standards to support the political claim that Russian officials wanted Trump to win, House Intelligence Committee staff revealed. They said that CIA analysts also objected to including that flawed, substandard information in the assessment.”

Footnotes

  1. Brennan’s prediction proved to be wholly inaccurate, as a February 2013 report by the Invesigative Project on Terrorism explained: “The record since then could not be further from Brennan’s idealistic hopes…. A new report finds Hezbollah, working with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), is responsible for a wave of terrorist plots throughout the world.”
  2. Brennan was introduced at NYU by Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America.
  3. On April 12, 2016, Marc Elias – a lawyer from Perkins Coie, the international law firm representing the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee – retained the research and strategic intelligence firm Fusion GPS to conduct opposition research on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Fusion GPS, in turn, hired former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele to compile a dossier of allegations claiming – falsely and without a scintilla of evidence — that Trump and his campaign had actively colluded with the Russian government to tilt the 2016 election in Trump’s favor. This opposition research/dossier was funded by three major sources: (a) Obama For America (OFA), Barack Obama’s official campaign arm, which paid Perkins Coie nearly $800,000 for “legal services” in 2016; (b) Hillary Clinton’s official campaign organization, Hillary For America, which paid just under $5.1 million to Perkins Coie in 2016 (DB); and (c) the Democratic National Committee, which paid nearly $5.4 million to Perkins Coie in 2016.National Review reports that, contrary to Brennan’s claims, both the retired National Security Agency director, Michael Rogers, and the former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, subsequently acknowledged that “the Steele dossier — along with the knowledge that it was a Clinton-campaign-funded product — most certainly did help shape the Obama’s intelligence communality interagency assessments and actions, often under the urging of Brennan himself.” “There are also numerous reports,” added NRO, “that despite his denials about knowledge of the dossier, Brennan served as a stealthy conduit to ensure that it was disseminated widely.” in February 2018, the House Intelligence Committee’s so-called “Nunes Memo” – named after Committee Chairman Devin Nunes – revealed that according to FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, “no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court] without the Steele dossier information.”

Additional Resources

Obama CIA Nominee John Brennan Wrong for the Job
By Steven Emerson and John Rossomando
February 5, 2013

Meet John Brennan, Obama’s Assassination Czar
By Patrick Poole
June 6, 2012

CIA Director John Brennan Proudly Acknowledges That He Once Voted for a Communist
By Ronald Radosh
September 21, 2016

A Journalist’s Manual: Field Guide to Useful Infidels
By Islamist Watch
December 27, 2016

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