Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 25, 2008

BRENNAN WITHDRAWS FROM CONSIDERATION.... A number of bloggers -- most notably Glenn Greenwald, Digby, and Andrew Sullivan -- have raised serious concerns about intelligence official John Brennan, who's been rumored to be a possible candidate for either the CIA director or the Director of National Intelligence in the Obama administration.

Brennan's critics accused him of supporting some of the Bush administration's most offensive intelligence-gathering policies, including rendition and "enhanced interrogation techniques." Obama, they said, even if he intended to move far away from those policies, should not make room for Brennan in his administration.

The criticism seems to have had the desired effect. Brennan has withdrawn from consideration for any intelligence post in the Obama administration.

Brennan wrote in a Nov. 25 letter to Obama that he did not want to be a distraction. His potential appointment has raised a firestorm in liberal blogs who associate him with the Bush administration's interrogation, detention and rendition policies.

Brennan was a 25-year veteran of the CIA who helped establish the National Counterterrorism Center and was its first director in 2004.

Obama's advisers had grown increasingly concerned in recent days over online blogs that accused Brennan of condoning harsh interrogation tactics on terror suspects, including waterboarding, which critics call torture.

According to the AP report, Brennan opposed waterboarding, and told his CIA colleagues about his concerns privately, while also questioning the legality of several CIA interrogation methods. Indeed, Brennan emphasized that he was twice passed over for intelligence posts in the Bush administration precisely because the White House believed he was too critical of their policies.

In his letter to Obama, Brennan argued, "It has been immaterial to the critics that I have been a strong opponent of many of the policies of the Bush administration such as the pre-emptive war in Iraq and coercive interrogation tactics, to include waterboarding. The fact that I was not involved in the decisionmaking process for any of these controversial policies and actions has been ignored."

In response, Glenn Greenwald highlighted Brennan's "lengthy, empathic statements" that made clear he "defended 'enhanced interrogation techniques' and rendition -- grounds enough for making him unacceptable for any top intelligence post -- to say nothing of his strident advocacy for warrantless eavesdropping and telecom amnesty."

As for the broader context, Brennan's withdrawal appears to be the direct result of blog coverage. For those who believe bloggers' concerns are inconsequential, this is clear evidence to the contrary.

Steve Benen 4:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (19)

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Comments

I seriously doubt that this withdrawal was really *caused* by the blogs. I think Obama made the decision and then decided to throw us a bone. But even the fact that he wants to throw us a bone is progress, I guess.

Posted by: Emma Anne on November 25, 2008 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

Someone needs to get the president-elect on Afghanistan. If he keeps listening to the Old Grey Haired Men of DC he is going to end up Waist Deep in the Big Muddy!"

Posted by: antiquelt on November 25, 2008 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

You think progressives have it rough lately:

Great news: Obama and McCain agreed to move forward on immigration, says Reid

my god, it's full of hot air...

Posted by: David W. on November 25, 2008 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

This is good news - one can't know cause and effect here but also don't forget that bloggers have readers, too: as soon as I read Greegwald on Brennan I contacted the Obama transition on their website and begged them to steer clear of Brennan. Hopefully a lot of other blog readers did the same and that helped influence the decision as well...

Posted by: q on November 25, 2008 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

It sounds like bloggers do have an effect, although this MAY NOT BE A GOOD THING. here we have tyranny of the masses essentially convicting someone of inapporpriate action without giving him the oppportunity to defend. IF, in fact, he did oppose the Bush administration, and was consistnet in that opposition, then he might actually be the best qualified to lead the CIA and return it to its historical role of all those dirty deeds that the liberals would cringe at anyways, but that may be necessary for those very same liberals to enjoy their freedom. And, yes, I voted for OBama, and am a liberal.
Tyranny by blogosphere is not the future I woudl hope for in this country.

Posted by: Chris on November 25, 2008 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen >"...his strident advocacy for warrantless eavesdropping and telecom amnesty...."

That part is the deal killer for me (not that I matter especially) irrespective of his stand for or against the other stuff. I believe that we still don't know most of what the Bush folks actually did & how "bad it got". Being a technical person I have a fair idea of what was possible in the communications arena & I don't like what I see as the likely behaviors.

"...the future is already here, it just isn't evenly distributed..." - William Gibson

Posted by: daCascadian on November 25, 2008 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

essentially convicting someone of inapporpriate action without giving him the oppportunity to defend.

"Convicting"? C'mon, now. He's out of the running for high political office, not going to jail. There's a bit of a difference. And the idea that someone with direct access to Obama (as a leader of the transition team) had no "opportunity to defend" himself from those scary bloggers is just silly. Some perspective, please.

Posted by: Glenn on November 25, 2008 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

Obama's advisers had grown increasingly concerned in recent days over online blogs that accused Brennan of condoning harsh interrogation tactics on terror suspects, including waterboarding, which critics call torture.

Look at this disgusting mealy-mouthed language by the AP. "Waterboarding, which critics call torture" -- complete nonsense. Waterboarding, i.e. forcible drowning, is torture by any definition of the term. Any other well-known torture techniques that the AP wants to qualify this way? The rack, genital electrocution, rape, etc.?

Posted by: Stefan on November 25, 2008 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

I think with respect to the picks that have been disappointing to some, they do have a constituency behind them (Wall Street). And it is those folks that need to be 'reassured'. Brennan, OTOH, is 'pro-torture' (e.g. his egregious defense of extrordinary rendition) and the torture lobby just doesn't have the same kind pull. Thus, I think in terms of victories, this would be a fairly small one unless one was in danger of being sent somewhere.

Posted by: tfvespasian on November 25, 2008 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

Anything less than unambigous, vocal opposition to t-o-r-t-u-r-e (not "enhanced interrogation techniques)is acceptable. I also don't use terms such as "ethnic cleansing," which are dispicable euphemisms. (What? Those Bosnia Muslims needed baths. During WWII, the Jews in the concentration camps certainly good have used more opportunities to wash, but I don't think gas chambers and ovens are what most people consider a normal hygene practices.)

Posted by: tec619 on November 25, 2008 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK
Glenn Greenwald highlighted Brennan's "lengthy, empathic statements"

Yeah, he did, which just goes to prove that the fact that you wrote a word and used all the right letters doesn't mean you wrote the right word.

I mean, really, an "empathic" statement defending enhanced interrogation and rendition? Grammatically, it makes sense, but semantically that's a pretty bizarre idea. I suspect Greenwald means emphatic not empathic.

Posted by: cmdicely on November 25, 2008 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

"As for the broader context, Brennan's withdrawal appears to be the direct result of blog coverage. For those who believe bloggers' concerns are inconsequential, this is clear evidence to the contrary."

Question: Why do you think that the bloggers made a difference in this situation but did not make a difference in the Lieberman situation? Is there some kind of recipe for approaching these things or was Brennan just feeling so personally indicted in a way that Lieberman didn't?

Posted by: PS on November 25, 2008 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

Look also at how AP's Pamela Hess bowlderizes what is actually said on 'blogs'. AP writes "online blogs that accused Brennan of condoning harsh interrogation tactics" while these blogs *actually* accuse him of condoning *torture*.

Further, 'blogs' accuse him of one or more of: directing, implementing, overseeing, and utilizing torture, not passively 'condoning' it.

It helps that she doesn't quote any of these 'bloggers'.

Posted by: Jim Lund on November 25, 2008 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

It should read "torture, which defenders of the policy call 'waterboarding'"

Posted by: grinning cat on November 25, 2008 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

Also, here is why counter-terrorism can never be a law enforcement issue. The advantage guerrillas/terrorists have is they can strike and return to safe havens to recuperate and plan.

Which differs from organized criminals, how?

Yeah, you're not thinking it through, either.

Posted by: gwangung on November 25, 2008 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

Question: Why do you think that the bloggers made a difference in this situation but did not make a difference in the Lieberman situation?

Brennan would have to be confirmed, and bloggers showed that we wouldn't roll over for his nomination without a fight. Obama didn't need a fight. Shows that making your demands known works better than shutting up.

And since it was blog-based opposition that is said to have made the difference here, it might have been appropriate to cite more than three bloggers who came out against Brennan. Three people do not make a "firestorm" of opposition.

Posted by: smintheus on November 25, 2008 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

pretty amazing how bush was a "uniter" after all...he got sullivan and greenwald on the same page......

Posted by: dj spellchecka on November 25, 2008 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

Much as I enjoy reading Digby, and sometimes Sullivan (Greenwald is mostly just annoying), I seriously doubt that these guys had a lot to do with what happened here.

Posted by: larry birnbaum on November 25, 2008 at 7:28 PM | PERMALINK

Against waterboarding and intense interrogation but favors rendition where foreigners can waterboard for us?

We should give him credit, why????

It's either disingenuous, or stupid.
I'd like to think Obama can get someone who is neither of these things.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on November 26, 2008 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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