Saturday, April 04, 2009

John Brennan, whipping boy

A little object lesson from Andrew Sullivan in how righteous indignation can overshoot:
"Holy hell has broken loose over this," is how one of Mike Isikoff's sources has described John Brennan's attempt to prevent release of three damning OLC memos drafted by the Bush administration in its systematic program for torturing terror suspects. One begins to realize how deeply important it was that Brennan didn't get the top CIA job.You see now his attachment to the torture regime he pretended to oppose and his fierce loyalty to CIA officers who may have committed war crimes and now seek to prevent the American people from finding out what was done in secret, against the law, in their name (my emphasis).
Brennan may indeed be acting out of "fierce loyalty" and still have opposed some, perhaps most or all, of the Bush Administration's worst crimes. Life is messy. He may have opposed some, stopped others, acquiesced in others, had no role in others.

Moreover, Andrew neglects to mention not only Brennan's reputed argument against releasing the memos -- "that release of the memos could embarrass foreign intelligence services who cooperated with the CIA" -- but also Isikoff's report that Brennan has won over anti-torture champion Leon Panetta, the CIA director, to his point of view.

I think that the memos have to be released (are redactions protecting cooperating countries feasible?) The crimes of the last Administration are like toxic assets on the national blaance sheet; the U.S. won't be fully "ready to lead again," as Obama proclaimed in his inaugural address, until it's all out and dealt with. But the (alleged) fact that Brennan could convince Panetta and stall the process is a reminder how easy it is for those of us on the outside looking in to fail to imagine how inside knowledge might bring people of good will with decision-making power to conclusions different from their (our) own.


  1. You have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. Brennan is and always has been opposed to torture, check the record. He was against release of the memos to protect CIA officers who were following DOJ orders, ridiculous though they might have been. Before you shoot your mouth off learn the facts.

  2. Anonymous seems to have read niether the post - "Brennan may indeed be acting out of "fierce loyalty" and still have opposed some, perhaps most or all, of the Bush Administration's worst crimes" - nor Brennan's own statements:

    While Brennan has said he is uncomfortable about the CIA's practice of waterboarding, a simulated-drowning technique sometimes used on terrorism suspects, he has also made provocative comments about the agency's use of other interrogation methods. He told a PBS interviewer in 2006 that "we do have to take off the gloves in some areas," but without taking actions that would "forever tarnish the image of the United States abroad." The "dark side has its limits," he said at the time.
    (Wash Post, Jan. 9 '09).