John Brennan's CIA Confirmation Hearing: Live Updates (Video)
Are Places Like Guantanamo a Bad Idea? 4:41 p.m.
Senator Marco Rubio asks "Why shouldn't we have a place to take people that we detain--like Guantanamo?" Suggesting that not having such places incentivizes killing of terror suspects. Brennan insists the incentive is never to kill terror suspects and that he doesn't, in fact, think it's a bad idea to have such places. "We need to have those places," he says.
Does Waterboarding Constitute Torture?--4:11 p.m. Brennan says, he is not a lawyer and therefor cannot say whether waterboarding is torture but makes clear that he thinks the practice "is something that should have been banned long ago, something that should never have taken place in my view...It should never have been employed and never will be if I have anything to do with it."
"I'm Focused Like a Lazer"--4:00 p.m. Brennan and Senator James Risch get into a heated back and forth over a report that a private teleconference in May of 2012 resulted in inadvertently revealing a covert operation. Brennan insists that this is not the case and insists, "I live this every day and night. I go to bed every night worrying that I didn't do enough to protect the American people."
Teaching the American Public About Drone Strikes--3:48 p.m. Senator Ron Wyden notes that, last year, President Obama urged Brennan and the CIA to "be more open with the public about the use of drones used to target members of al-Qaeda." What, he asks, should be done next to bring the American people into the drone debate? Brennan says he thinks the American people are misinformed that the U.S. takes strikes to punish terrorists for past transgressions which, he says, couldn't be farther from the truth. "These actions are actually only taken to save lives and prevent attacks." He wants the public to be aware of "the care we take and the agony we go through to make sure we don't have any collateral injuries or deaths...It is part of my obligation to make sure the truth is known to the American public and the world."
Brennan Is Noncommittal on Providing the Committee with Intelligence--3:36 p.m. Senator Richard Burr notes that in investigating the September 11, 2012 terror attacks in Benghazi, Libya the CIA has delayed and, at times, "flatly refused" to provide requested information. Will Brennan ensure that this doesn't happen again? He says, without committing to anything, that he will commit to doing everything in his ability and authority to accommodate the committee's request.
Burr also asks whether there is "any situation where it's legal to disclose to the media or public details of covert action programs." Brennan more or less says "no." Burr says he didn't say classified documents, he specifically said "covert action programs." Well, Brennan points out, covert action programs are, by definition, classified. So, the answer is still "no."
Saxby Chambliss: Do You Regret Not Going After Bin Laden Before 9/11?--3:17 p.m.
Senator Saxby Chambliss, the committee's vice chairman, asks whether Brennan advised against a pre-9/11 mission to capture Osama bin Laden and why. Brennan explains that he was not in the chain of command at the time of the plan but did advise that "it was not well grounded in intelligence and it's chances of success were minimal--minimal--and it was likely that other individuals were going to be killed." When asked whether he regretted expressing his objection to the mission, Brennan reiterates that he was not in the chain of command at the time but says he does not regret the advise he gave.
Asked by Sen. Chambliss why he prefers killing terrorists with drone strikes over detaining them, Brennan insists: "I never believe it is better to kill a terrorist than to detain him. we want to detain as many terrorists as possible so we can elicit the intelligence from them" to stop future attacks. Chambliss asks twice, "how many high value targets have been arrested, detained and interrogated by the United States" during Brennan's tenure of leadership at the CIA and doesn't get a straight answer from Brennan, leading him to declare that the answer is "one."
"Five Times Are Enough"--2:47 p.m.
Brennan is not able to get through his opening remarks without being interrupted by several protesters. After kicking out the fifth person for yelling about drone strikes, Feinstein decides the room needs to be cleared and "Code Pink" associates not be let back in. "This witness is entitled to be heard, ladies and gentlemen, so give him that opportunity," she says.
Dianne Feinstein, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Gives Brennan Her Seal of Approval--2:30 p.m.
Senator Dianne Feinstein gets this party started with a breakdown of the global importance of the CIA and the assertion that “John Brennan by all accounts will be a strong leader, guided by the law and his strong ethical code.” She gives a preview of what we can expect from the next few hours--including questions on drone strikes--noting she has a few of her own. Also, she said it at General Petreaus's confirmation hearing and she'll say it again now: interum CIA director Mike Morell is just the best.