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The Grilling that Brennan Deserves

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Just Boilerplate

But all the American public gets is boilerplate about how al-Qaeda evildoers are perverting a religion and exploiting impressionable young men. Or, as Brennan suggests, some "militants" are just hard-wired for things like knocking down aircraft over Detroit with themselves on board.

There is almost no discussion about why so many people in the Muslim world object to U.S. policies so strongly that they are inclined to resist violently and even resort to suicide attacks. Perhaps, the U.S. and Western proclivity toward intervening in their affairs over many decades -- propping up corrupt dictators and favoring Israel over the Palestinians -- has left some Muslims looking for any way to strike back, even self-destructive acts of terror.

Maybe today, one of the reasons for the number of "militants" willing to attack Americans might have something to do with drones buzzing over Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen,  Somalia and other locales -- and with distant "pilots" getting clearance from Brennan and his associates to push some button and obliterate some unsuspecting target.

Despite the American people's legitimate right to know what's being done in their name, Brennan gets thin-skinned when criticized or asked tough questions. Four years ago, when President Obama was first considering Brennan to head the CIA, Brennan faced questions about what he did for the Bush/Cheney "dark side" and promptly withdrew his name. In a bitter letter, he blamed "strong criticism in some quarters, prompted by [his] previous service with the... CIA.

Yet, Brennan's 25-year career at the CIA would seem to be fair game in evaluating whether he should run the place. His former managers in CIA's analysis directorate tell me he was a bust as an analyst.

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Instead, like former CIA Director (and more recently Defense Secretary) Robert Gates, Brennan's career zoomed upwards after he caught the attention of key White House officials -- in Brennan's case, George Tenet who held the top intelligence advisory job under President Bill Clinton before he was made CIA deputy director and then director.

Of course, the tradeoff for that kind of advancement often is your integrity, both as an intelligence officer and as a public servant. Indeed, it's hard to conceive how someone could have flourished in the corrupt world of U.S. intelligence, especially since its descent into the post-9/11 "dark side," without selling out one's professionalism and morality.

Those who stood their ground and demonstrated integrity found themselves out on the street or marginalized as "soft on terror" -- or maybe they were considered suspiciously finicky when it came to "quaint and obsolete" notions like the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Geneva Conventions and the rule of law.

But don't worry. Endorsing the nomination of Brennan on Wednesday, the editors of the Washington Post tell us that, although "the administration's current strategy of countering al-Qaeda in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia with drone strikes is unsustainable ... the strikes are certainly legal under U.S. and international law ... [even though they] are problematic, given the backlash they have caused in Pakistan."

Still, it might be nice if the American people could see the secret legal justifications underpinning Brennan's last four years as keeper of the "kill lists."

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Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). His (more...)

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A Courageous and informative article, in particula... by ejsharp on Wednesday, Jan 9, 2013 at 9:34:30 PM
That Both Hagel and Brennan, have Jesuit education... by Davey Jones on Thursday, Jan 10, 2013 at 2:04:49 AM
CIA head has more power than a US President. The C... by Steven G. Erickson on Thursday, Jan 10, 2013 at 1:47:23 PM
Brennan deserves to be hung up by his feet and bea... by Deborah Dills on Thursday, Jan 10, 2013 at 6:40:13 PM
If the U S had wanted to create Islam extremists w... by Jerry Wesner on Thursday, Jan 10, 2013 at 8:29:45 PM
 They don't hate us because of of our freedom... by Deborah Dills on Thursday, Jan 10, 2013 at 9:33:32 PM
A liar and a probable war criminal, a dangerous ca... by Carol Davidek-Waller on Thursday, Jan 10, 2013 at 9:18:25 PM