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British documents leaked in 2005 -- acknowledged as authentic by the UK government -- detailed the hoax being prepared to "justify" war on Iraq. In a July 23, 2002 briefing to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the head of British intelligence reported that then-CIA Director George Tenet had told him at CIA headquarters three days earlier that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" for war on Iraq.
In the Loop vs. In the Chain
It is not too late for you to look into what role John Brennan played in these key events. Was he, for example, one of the small circle of senior CIA officials who met with the head of British intelligence on July 20, 2002? We don't know the answer to that, but you might be able to find out if you ask. From our experience with such meetings, it seems likely that either Brennan or his boss A. B. "Buzzy" Krongard would have been among those taking part. You could ask each of them. You should be able to expect straight answers.
Whether Brennan was in the loop for the lies on Iraq is not an idle question, impinging as it does on his integrity. And yes, integrity matters. It matters a great deal. Why not instruct your staff to determine how many fraudulent-intelligence-related memos Brennan received, just as they did in identifying at least 50 torture-related memos that show him to have been "in the loop" on that sensitive subject.
We strongly encourage you not to acquiesce again in the lame in-the-loop-but-not-in-the-chain-of-command alibi Brennan used on February 7, in answering questions regarding his contemporaneous knowledge of CIA waterboarding and other abuses, and what he did or did not do with that knowledge. Presumably, with your long tenure on the Intelligence Committee, you are thoroughly familiar with the guarded way in which very sensitive intelligence-related information is handled -- first and foremost, the basic principle of "need-to-know."
Brennan was kept informed of the torture because Tenet wanted him to be -- that is, in Tenet's view, Brennan had a need to know. That is why, as Sen. Saxby Chambliss pointed out, Brennan was "cc-ed" on "a minimum of 50 memos" dealing with waterboarding and other controversial interrogation techniques. Chambliss noted that Brennan's boss, A. B. "Buzzy" Krongard, told the Wall Street Journal that Brennan had a role in setting the parameters of the program and "helping to seek Justice Department approval for the techniques."
This is a far cry from what Brennan admitted to -- namely, just having had "awareness that the agency was being asked to do this [and] was going forward on it. " [and having] visibility into some of the activities there." Again, on the basis of the fundamental principle of need-to-know, Brennan would have had zero "visibility" into the highly sensitive torture program, were Tenet not to have wanted him to be involved -- or, at least, kept informed about it.
If CIA officials wrote memos on the sensitive issue of torture, it seems altogether possible that they wrote memos about warping intelligence, too, while restricting dissemination to those with a need-to-know. You may wish to try to get ahold of any such memos, in order to determine if either the "loop" or the "chain" included Brennan.
There is Still Time
By no means were you the only Congressperson to fall for what Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's chief of staff at the State Department, has branded the "hoax" on Iraq. But you are now chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Would it be asking too much to request that you take greater pains to exercise due diligence, this time around, regarding those playing fast and loose with key intelligence judgments that can lead to war?
First, please find out what evidence John Brennan is relying upon for his assertion that Iran is "bent on pursuing nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missile delivery systems." Does he know something others should know? Or are we beginning to see the makings of another consequential hoax?
Second, please look closely into the role Brennan played at his mentor's side, as George Tenet corrupted the intelligence process to service White House lust for war on Iraq. See what you can find out. If it turns out that those conjuring up "uncorroborated, contradicted, or even non-existent" intelligence kept Brennan in the loop (as the torture aficionados did), the fact that Brennan did not blow the whistle is enough, in our view, to remove him from consideration as CIA director.
Drones and Dead Civilians
You began Brennan's confirmation hearing by stating that the number of civilian deaths caused by US drone strikes each year has "typically been in the single digits." This brought to mind the extraordinary public claim Mr. Brennan made on June 29, 2011, that "nearly for the past year there hasn't been a single collateral death" as a result of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan.
Could Brennan have forgotten the widely reported drone strike just three months earlier (on March 17) that killed 42 Pakistanis, most of them civilians? Could he have forgotten the strong protest that the Pakistani government lodged decrying those killings in the town of Datta Khel?