|At least he's good at something: lying is a skill, right?|
Curmie started a piece today on high school yearbooks, or, rather, on four different controversies involving such publications this year. I’m going to put that essay on hold for the moment, though, to talk about the current furor over CIA Director John Brennan. Brennan, whose rise to the leadership of the agency has been aptly described by The Guardian’s Trevor Timm as “failing upwards,” was a supporter of rendition, torture, and all the other insidious Bush-era programs the Obama administration pretended for a while to oppose, all the while immunizing the worst offenders from criticism, let alone much-deserved job losses and long-term incarceration.
Brennan was floated as a possibility for the CIA’s top post when President Obama was first elected, but withdrew from contention amid a swarm of reminders of what a sinister little weasel he truly is… only to re-appear as Obama’s chief counter-terrorism advisor. In that position, he was caught lying on numerous occasions, most notably the outrageous claim that no non-combatants were killed in a year’s worth of drone strikes in Pakistan. Here’s an article about the falseness of the claim, even using the CIA’s own massaged numbers. That patently mendacious assertion was made on June 29, 2011. Analysis by New America shows a total of six strikes leading to civilian deaths, accounting for between 61 and 68 civilian fatalities in the previous year. Brennan, in short, is a liar. That’s an OK quality in a spy, I suppose, except when he’s lying to his presumed bosses: the President, Congress, and the American citizenry.
He told a bunch of other lies, too, including false information about the death of Osama bin Laden. For this record of colossal arrogance, untrustworthiness, and deceit, he was duly rewarded by President Obama with the nomination for the CIA position in January of 2013. Obama cited serial prevaricator Brennan’s “integrity and commitment ‘to the values that define us as Americans.’” Really, he did: it’s right there on the White House website.
The confirmation process was anything but smooth, with two leading Democrats—Senators Mark Udall and Ron Wyden—expressing real concerns. Republican Senator Rand Paul launched a real-live filibuster—the “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” kind, not the candy-assed variety that has been allowed to hold sway of late—against Brennan’s nomination. After some 13 hours, the vote finally happened, with Brennan being confirmed by a less-than-overwhelming 63-34 margin.
Fast forward a year or so, to January of this year, at which point Brennan allegedly told Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein that the CIA had searched the computers of Senate staffers engaged in an oversight investigation because they feared the committee might have gained access to internal review documents they weren’t authorized to see. Senator Feinstein subsequently complained on the Senate floor in March that “The CIA did not ask the committee or its staff if the committee had access to the internal review or how we obtained it. Instead, the CIA just went and searched the committee’s computer.”
Here’s a post-facto version of Feinstein’s argument, as reported by Spencer Ackerman of The Guardian:
Feinstein, in her dramatic speech on the Senate floor in March, said the agency breached the firewall to obstruct the committee’s investigation of the agency’s torture of post-9/11 terrorism detainees, a years-long effort expected to be partially declassified in the coming days or weeks. That investigation was itself prompted by a different coverup: the destruction of videotapes of brutal interrogations by a senior official, Jose Rodriguez.
Despite that, the committee has concluded that the torture was an ineffective means of gathering intelligence on al-Qaida—contradicting years of CIA assurances it was crucial – and that the agency lied to its overseers about its value.
Feinstein’s indignation was well-placed, not least because there are precious few documents that ought to be kept from an oversight committee. But, Gentle Reader, I urge you to look at what Brennan was asserting, remembering that this is the best-case scenario for the CIA’s public image and credibility. He’s saying that the reason the CIA took the outrageous action of searching Congressional computers is that the world’s allegedly most sophisticated spy organization doesn’t know how to keep documents out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have access to them. Mr. Brennan had his choice: he could admit to a series of felonies, or to having the crime-fighting abilities and general competence of Inspector Clouseau on a bad day.
Of course, he took another option: righteous dudgeon. He—to use the phrase of The Hill’s Alexander Bolton “[waged] an aggressive counter-attack,” rolling his eyes and claiming that “nothing could be further from the truth” than Feinstein’s charges. He continued, “I mean, we wouldn’t do that. I mean, that’s just beyond the scope of reason.” He was lying, of course. You could tell that because he’s John Brennan, his lips were moving, and words were being formed. And he probably picked the wrong adversary: Senator Feinstein is well-respected on the hill, in part because even political rivals like Senator Lindsey Graham say she “is somebody who’s not prone to say wild things.”
And so now it emerges that what we knew all along—that if John Brennan says it, it’s probably not true—turns out to have been proven by the CIA’s own investigation. Yes, the CIA was spying on the very people charged with overseeing their activities. Yes, Brennan is either less trustworthy than the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse or dumber than a stack of burnt toast. Who knew, right? Other than anyone who was paying the slightest bit of attention, that is.
So now he’s issued a private apology and seems ready to continue to be the same prevaricating jackass he’s always been. Brian Hughes (article linked above), however, writes:
“Brennan is either a liar or incompetent—or maybe both,” one senior Democratic Senate aide told the Washington Examiner. “No, I don’t think the White House can expect us to give him the benefit of the doubt here.”
Two Democratic Senators—Mark Udall and Martin Heinrich—have already called for Brennan’s ouster; don’t be surprised if there are further demands from both sides of the aisle: Senators Graham, McCain and Wyden all come to mind as possibilities. Others will join if there’s already enough blood in the water. Yet somehow the Obama administration itself remains convinced that Brennan is the right man for the job: “full confidence” is the President’s term.
Excuse me, waiter, but could I have an extra helping of WTF with that bullshit-burger? It’s pretty clear that the President is joining Dorothy on her trip to Oz. The only question is which of her fellow travelers he’s chosen to emulate. Is he really without a brain? How else to explain his apparent inability to perceive what’s been obvious to everyone else for months if not years? Does he lack the courage to do what’s right even if it casts doubt on his initial decision-making? Or is what he is missing heart—the human capacity to care whether justice is served, competence rewarded, and mendacity punished?
Of course, the Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion and Tin Man all actually had those attributes all along. It just took the Wizard (“really a very good man, but… a very bad Wizard”), to point that everything they sought was always already present. I’d like to think that the POTUS has those qualities, too. But I’m beginning to suspect the contrary. (That’s Curmie-speak for “I’ve been pretty damned convinced for a while,” in case you were wondering.)
John Brennan has had a chance to resign. He didn’t take it. He should therefore be fired. Anyone want to bet that he will be?
I didn’t think so.