The Seduction of John Brennan’s “Moral Rectitude”

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Empty Wheel

The Seduction of John Brennan’s “Moral Rectitude”

As has been floating over the last few days, Obama will reportedly appoint John Brennan CIA Director later today.

For what it's worth, having John Brennan in a position where he will be subject to Congressional oversight–rather than the oversight-free and more expansive position he’s in now–might not be an entirely bad thing. And after the DiFi-Jose Rodriguez smackdown, I’m not sad to see Morell get passed over, because I don’t think he has sufficient independence from people like Rodriguez.

Nevertheless, this appointment no doubt will lead to (already has) a bunch of people suggesting John Brennan will bring new order to the drone program.

I’m actually far more worried about Brennan’s control over other programs, particularly profiling Americans (though National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC) owns much of that task now). Remember, in addition to having ties to torture, Brennan was in charge of profiling for Dick Cheney’s illegal wiretap program. And he’s the guy who decided it’d be great to give the NCTC unfettered access to any federal database. This man loves data mining, and we should expect to see more of it from the CIA.

But I’m amused that people believe–based on anonymous claims by Brennan supporters–that he’ll bring order to the drone program. Such belief, it seems to me, overlooks Brennan’s actions in favor of anonymous comments.

Brennan was purportedly putting more order to the program. Until Mitt lost, and then he stalled that effort and broke what rules are said to govern the program.

Brennan was purportedly opposed to signature strikes. Until he approved them for use in Yemen.

Brennan has had control over all aspects of the drone program for 8 months. But the drone program is, if anything, accelerating again.

And remember, Brennan is a liar. A proven liar on this and a number of other issues. As well as a key instigator for the self-interested leaking the Administration would criminally punish coming from others. He spends a great deal of energy telling useful but not factually accurate stories to spin the Administration’s counterterrorism programs.

So I can’t help but think the people hailing his “moral rectitude” have been seduced by an old spook. Because every story that claims Brennan has some kind of higher ethics or a plan to put order to our out-of-control counterterrorism programs is either followed–or has the proof within itself–that the moral rectitude is the public relations, whereas the embrace of unchecked power seems to be backed by his actions.

Marcy Wheeler

Marcy Wheeler writes the blog Emptywheel. and the "Right to Know" column for ExposeFactsorg. Her book, Anatomy of Deceit: How the Bush Administration Used the Media to Sell the Iraq War and Out a Spy, provided a primer on the CIA Leak case surrounding Valerie Plame and her husband, Joe Wilson. She publishes at various outlets including the Guardian, Salon and the Progressive. Wheeler won the 2009 the Hillman Award for blog journalism.

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