Counterterrorism

International Herald Tribune, February 9, 2013 | Go to article overview

Counterterrorism


If confirmed as C.I.A. director, John Brennan mustn't forget that the heightened danger does not free the executive branch from oversight.

John Brennan's confirmation hearing as director of the Central Intelligence Agency has forced a long overdue discussion of some of the most controversial aspects of the Obama administration's counterterrorism policy, including the killing of American citizens suspected of terrorism. Unfortunately, on Thursday, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee didn't always ask the right questions and the nominee's answers were frequently unsatisfying.

Take Mr. Brennan's refusal to describe the waterboarding of terrorism suspects as torture. Under questioning, he said the practice, instituted by President George W. Bush, was reprehensible. He promised that, if confirmed, waterboarding would never be reinstituted on his watch. It was incomprehensible that he did not acknowledge the obvious truth -- as Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. and a former C.I.A. director, Leon Panetta, had -- that waterboarding is purely and simply torture.

It was disheartening to hear him say that as a deputy in the agency during the Bush administration, when waterboarding and other brutal interrogation methods were approved, he was aware of the activities and voiced his objections to some of his colleagues but did nothing more to stop it because he did not have any oversight responsibility. …

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