Senate Must Demand Firm Commitment to Transparency From Brennan
The Senate can and should demand transparency from Brennan on torture, drones, and counterterrorism strategies
January 10, 2013
What will a good CIA director look like?
Transformative. Even as the 9/11 era is slowly receding, the CIA has gone further and further into a post-9/11 mindset, with an ever-growing focus on counterterrorism and paramilitary activity instead of analysis and information-gathering. The next CIA director will need uncommon political courage, because restoring the CIA's core mission will mean shucking off or at least dramatically downgrading these new missions.
Steeped in the Constitution and the rule of law. The project, which began so strongly in 2009, to marry effective counterterrorism with transparency, oversight and firm adherence to legal norms has stalled. Brennan was kept from this job once, and will be opposed again, for having failed to take a stand against torture ("enhanced interrogation techniques") while he was a senior Agency official during the Bush years. Brennan has been a strong voice against torture for the last four years—which cannot be said of all the senators who will consider his nomination. In my personal opinion, keeping him from the job will do little to ensure torture is never again part of U.S. government policy.
Instead, the Senate should demand firm, clear commitments on how Brennan will lead efforts to lay out transparent standards and oversight for counterterrorism operations, especially targeted killing and drone operations, but also the capture, detention and trial of terror suspects. Then, of course, the Senate—which has blocked efforts to close Guantanamo and try terror suspects in federal courts—should make those same commitments itself, to allow a CIA director and the entire national security team to be maximally effective, and our soldiers and agents to work under clear rules and public red lines.
Trusted. S/he will understand and respect the CIA workforce, and be able to communicate that well, and govern the institution effectively. This matters for institutional order and discipline, and because a director who is not trusted simply won't be able to take the tough decisions above.
Michelle Malkin has suggested that Brennan is too "soft on jihad" to run the CIA, because he advocated abandoning the use of terminology that was offensive to Muslims. I mention this because, on the contrary, deep understanding of foreign cultures ought to be a necessary qualification.