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"Hopefully, that 'dark side' is not going to be something that's going to forever tarnish the image of the United States abroad, and that we're going to look back on this time and regret some of the things that we did, because it is not in keeping with our values."
After Obama assumed office, Brennan was one of those most fiercely opposed to Obama's release of the "torture memos," lest they expose his own guilty knowledge and activist role. The Senate Intelligence Committee started looking into all this several years ago and, reportedly, is still doing so.
All this may be a large part of the reason that President-Elect Barack Obama was told that the Committee already had enough on Brennan to make any confirmation process very painful, should Obama follow through with his original plan to nominate Brennan to be CIA Director.
Audacity of Hope
Some of you may recall that I was privileged to be a passenger on the Audacity of Hope, the U.S. Boat to Gaza, last June. It was a tense time. Stuffing my backpack before flying to Athens, I got a familiar call from a puzzled friend, who said as gently as the words allow, "You know you can get killed, don't you?"
This was not the first such expression of concern. From some others -- who have zero interest in the plight of Gazans, and/or did not wish us passengers well -- similar words carried an edge: "Aren't you just asking for it?"
Before I left the U.S., I was pointedly disabused of any notion that the U.S. government would do something to protect us American citizens sailing on an American-flagged boat from the kind of violence used by the Israelis against a similar flotilla led by a Turkish boat in May 2010. As reported to me, the warning came from a source with access to senior officials at the National Security Council.
I was told that the Obama administration planned to do absolutely nothing to protect our boat from Israeli attack or illegal boarding, and that White House officials "would be happy if something happened to us." They were, I was told, "perfectly willing to have the cold corpses of activists shown on American TV."
Can you guess who was the ultimate source? Last week, I went back to my original source and asked if the source could tell me who uttered those words. The answer: John Brennan,
I included mention of that warning in an article I wrote before boarding the boat. The warning stretched credulity to the breaking point for a good friend, former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, who blogged:
"While I know Ray to be an extremely honest man, I thought it was possible that his source was exaggerating. I therefore set my own diplomatic sources to work in Washington, without giving them any indication of Ray's information.
"They came back with an independent report from a different source -- close to Hillary Clinton rather than the White House -- with exactly the same result of which Ray was warned. ... Fatalities would be 'not a problem' for Obama."
That the macho, Israeli-friendly Brennan, turns out to be the White House policy official behind the official bluster surprises me not in the least, though it is nice, I suppose, to have confirmation.
As things turned out, Obama had the presence of mind to seek out and heed some adult advice. After trying unsuccessfully to extract a promise from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to shoot us up, Obama decided to pressure the Greeks to deny us permission to sail for Gaza -- which they did, holding their noses.
Blockade Legal or Illegal?
Were we within our rights? Was/is Israel's sea blockade of Gaza legal under international law? No. And that's why, to its credit, the legal section of our Department of State will not prostitute itself by calling it legal.
On June 24, while we were stranded, literally, in Athens, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland danced around the question at one of the most bizarre press conferences in memory.
AP reporter Matt Lee and some of his colleagues decided to be more matter-of-fact than diplomatic with Nuland, a former national security adviser to Vice President Cheney (from 2003 to 2005) and the wife of neoconservative writer Robert Kagan.