John Brennan

C.I.A. to Senate Intelligence - do as I say, not as I do

The Senate Intelligence Committee is apparently getting a taste of what it’s like to be the subject of a C.I.A. investigation, and isn’t very pleased. It has partially come to light that the spies have been watching the committee, primarily over an investigation into the Bush administration’s interrogation and detention program in the wake of 9/11. Yes, it’s the long and expensive investigation into the C.I.A.’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” coming back to bite the committee.

It’s no secret that the C.I.A. was less than pleased with the findings the investigation, and when the Senate Committee managed to get their hands on a secret document that contradicted C.I.A. Director John Brennan’s contentions that their initial investigation was at least partially false, things started to get ugly. Like many other webs of intrigue in our government these days, one almost needs a scorecard to keep track.

1. The Senate Intelligence Committee engaged in an investigation of the interrogation and detention program. This cost taxpayers more than $40 million because the C.I.A. insisted that the investigation had to take place in a secure location, and all the material had to be reviewed by an outside contractor before it could be released to the committee staff.

2. The investigation found that the techniques like waterboarding used by the C.I.A. really didn’t yield a great deal of useful information. It certainly didn’t justify the use of those techniques, and placed the U.S. in a difficult situation when it came to foreign relations.

UPDATE: Rand Paul is Filibustering Obama’s CIA Nominee

Rand Paul's filibusters John Brennan

This post has been updated. Scroll down to view the latest.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who has become the fiercest of President Obama’s drone program, is currently in the middle of a traditional filibuster against the nomination of John Brennan. He been at it for a just over two hours, having started at 11:47am.

You can watch it live here.

Brennan, who was nominated by President Obama to serve as director of the CIA, was asked some very direct questions by Sen. Paul over the drones program. Sen. Paul wanted to know whether or not the White House could perhaps target American citizens who are merely suspected terrorist activities inside the borders of the United States.

Attorney General Eric Holder responded to the questions raised by Sen. Paul about the drone program. “The question you have posed is therefore entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no president will ever have to confront,” Holder wrote. “It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.”

Sen. Paul recognizes that he won’t be able to keep going for a prolonged period of time, but he is using the time to highlight the various issues problems with the use of drones against American citizens, thus denying them due process.

Drones: Legal, Ethical, and Wise?

Since the first armed drone strike in Yemen 2002, the United States has been leveraging the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, signed on September 18, 2001, presumably for use in Afghanistan, to justify the use of drone warfare in numerous countries.  Drones have since been used in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Mali, but mostly in Pakistan, where strikes began in 2004, and accelerated in 2009; with more than 300 strikes, there have been six times more drone strikes in Pakistan under Obama than under Bush.

The Inexcusable Brennan Hearing

In light of a Department of Justice memo laying out the general rules for assassinating American citizens with drones via a presidential “kill list” - and consequently, without Due Process - it was believed yesterday’s confirmation hearing for John Brennan as Central Intelligence Agency Director, the architect of these strikes, would be contentious.  It sadly was not, and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s failure to press him on the assassinations of American citizens is nothing short of inexcusable.

As I stated in a post earlier this week, I did not expect the U.S. Senate to check the power it collectively usurped with the CIA; after all, they had a hand in constructing the legal framework for the extrajudicial assassinations of American citizens.  The precedence set by this policy endangers the checks-and-balances inherent within a typical constitutional republic.

Senate Confirmations: An Opportunity Squandered

President Obama’s foreign policy team is undergoing a makeover, with the nominations of Senator John Kerry as Secretary of State, former Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, and the Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan as CIA Director.  All three gentlemen are expected to be confirmed; Kerry already has, Hagel will likely be confirmed (following an abysmal hearing) later this week, and Brennan faces his confirmation hearing this Thursday, which will essentially be the GOP’s final chance to hold Obama accountable for broken national security policies.

The GOP squandered two opportunities to ask proper questions of Kerry and Hagel.  The Kerry confirmation hearing was a jovial affair for one of the first advocates on intervention in the Libyan civil war in 2011, which, by the way, received no congressional authorization.  When Kerry was questioned about congressional authorization, he essentially bragged about his history of support for unilateral Executive action in Grenada, Panama, Kosovo, Bosnia, and yes, Libya.

Jon Stewart rips Dianne Feinstein’s hypocrisy

Jon Stewart on Dianne Feinstein

Jon Stewart is unmoved by Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) allegations that the CIA monitored Senate Intelligence Committee staffers and destroyed evidence related to an investigation into the agency’s Bush-era torture program.

In a six-plus minute segment last night, The Daily Show host heckled Feinstein, highlighting the hypocrisy of her complaints about the agency’s spying on Congress — which, she says, violates the Fourth Amendment and an executive order prohibiting domestic surveillance — when she’s been a hardcore defender of the NSA programs that, you know, do the exact same things.

“I’m gonna tell you something, so listen very closely. You can violate the Fourth Amendment. You can violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. But you do not want to f**k with Executive Order 12333,” said Stewart, noting that the Reagan-era policy explicitly prohibits intelligence agencies from domestic surveillance.

“What is incredible about these accusations is, they are not coming from Senator Ron ‘privacy is important’ Wyden or Senator Rand ‘Don’t kill me with a flying robot’ Paul. They are coming from Dianne ‘so the NSA is looking at your data’ Feinstein,” said Stewart, before going to a clip of the Senate Intelligence Committee chair defending the legality of the domestic surveillance programs.

“See, she doesn’t mind if our security apparatus might be looking at your stuff, because your stuff is sh*t. But her sh*t is stuff,” he added, paying homage to the late stand-up comedian George Carlin.

Biggest Stories of 2013: Rand Paul’s Epic 13-Hour Filibuster

Throughout New Year’s Eve, we’ll be going through the 10 biggest political stories of 2013 as selected by United Liberty’s contributors. Don’t forget to chime in on the biggest stories of the year on our Facebook page.

While Sen. Ted Cruz’s filibuster against Obamacare is more recent, it was actually the second freakishly long filibuster of 2013 with the first being of far more significance.  That filibuster was Sen. Rand Paul’s epic 13-hour filibuster of John Brennan’s appointment to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.

Paul’s filibuster came following repeated attempts to simply get the Obama administration to say that they would not use armed drones against American citizens.  It was a simple question, one that many felt the answer was obvious, yet administration officials repeatedly did everything they could to avoid an answer.

Yes, the answer should have been obvious.  However, the administration’s refusal to actually answer it became more and more alarming to people who don’t trust executive power.  Sure, eventually the answer came and it was what everyone expected.  That wasn’t the point.

CIA suspends employee who refused to sign Benghazi non-disclosure agreement

CIA

A month after CNN reported that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had gone to great lengths to keep who were working on the ground the night of the Benghazi terrorist attack from talking to the media, agency director John Brennan reportedly cleared survivors to be able to talk to lawmakers and congressional investigators.

But one CIA employee who has refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) on Benghazi has been suspended by the agency, according to Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) via the Washington Free Beacon:

A CIA employee who refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement barring him from discussing the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, has been suspended as a result and forced to hire legal counsel, according to a top House lawmaker.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R., Va.) revealed at an event on Monday that his office was anonymously informed about the CIA employee, who is purportedly facing an internal backlash after refusing to sign a legal document barring him from publicly or privately discussing events surrounding the Benghazi attack.
[…]
“My office received a call from a man saying that he knew a CIA employee who has retained legal counsel because he has refused to sign an additional NDA regarding the Sept. 11, 2012, events in Benghazi,” Wolf said in Sept. 9 remarks at a panel discussion hosted by Judicial Watch.

#StandWithRand: Kentucky Senator may filibuster military strikes against Syria

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is floating the possibility of a filibuster against the resolution that the White House is working hard to push through Congress that would authorize the use of military force against Syria:

“I can’t imagine that we won’t require 60 votes on this,” Paul told reporters on an afternoon conference call. “Whether there’s an actual standing filibuster — I’ve got to check my shoes and check my ability to hold my water. And we will see. I haven’t made a decision on that.”
[…]
When it comes to Syria, Paul said he believes the best hope for defeating a resolution to authorize military action will come in the House. He reiterated his view that an attack on Syria would create more turbulence and danger in the region, and may not even disable the Syrian government’s ability to launch chemical attacks.

Back in March, Paul led a 13-hour talking filibuster of CIA nominee John Brennan, during which he and other senators — including Ted Cruz and Mike Lee — offered a substantive critique of the Obama Administration drones policy. The filibuster propelled Paul to the national stage, making him a formidable figure in the Republican Party and a rare conservative voice for civil liberties. He was able to change the narrative of the debate on drones and sway public opinion in a single stand.

Lindsey Graham Begins to Slip Among South Carolina Republicans

It’s long been thought that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) would be able to withstand any sort of potential primary from a conservative challenger. But looks like that narrative could begin to shift as a new poll from Winthrop University shows Graham’s approval rating down significantly among Republicans in the state in just two months.

“U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is up for re-election in 2014, received a 44 percent approval rating among S.C. registered voters but his approval rating has dropped from 71.6 percent to 57.5 percent among Republicans and those independents who lean toward the GOP compared to the February poll,” noted the statement from Winthrop, which was made available by FITSNews. “This drop corresponds to the entry of two vocal challengers, and discussion of a third, into the primary race against him.”


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