Brennan faced questions about his role in the use of torture during his confirmation hearing
He has a press conference at the CIA, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Thursday
Brennan, a New Jersey native who speaks Arabic, studied at the American University in Cairo
Brennan was a CIA official under George W. Bush and advised Obama on intelligence
Nearly two years ago, John Brennan worked hard to convince the Senate that he was no believer in torture – and that if he was confirmed as CIA director, he wouldn’t represent a return to George W. Bush-era tactics.
He told Senators at the time that he’d read the Senate Intelligence Committee’s summary of its investigation into those “enhanced interrogation techniques” and that it had “raised serious questions” in his mind about whether those techniques had been effective.
Now, Brennan finds himself firmly on the other side, defending the CIA in the days after that report’s summary was finally release to the public.
He’s slated to speak on the CIA’s interrogation tactics – and the intelligence they elicited – during a rare 1:30 p.m. news conference.
It’s a stark turnaround for Brennan, and one that has infuriated some Democratic lawmakers. Colorado Sen. Mark Udall called for his resignation on the Senate floor Wednesday, and said the CIA is “lying” in claiming that rough interrogation tactics worked.
The early portion of Brennan’s evolution – from a top CIA official in the Bush administration to a torture skeptic as he sought confirmation as the agency’s director under Obama – was on display at his confirmation hearing in 2013.
He admitted that he hadn’t taken steps to “stop the CIA’s use of those techniques,” but said that was because he “was not in the chain of command of that program.”
“The reports that I was getting subsequent to that, and in the years after that, it was clearly my impression that there was valuable information that was coming out,” Brennan said.
Then, though, he said he read the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report.
“I must tell you,” he said, “that reading this report from the committee raises serious questions about the information that I was given at the time, and the impression that I had at the time. Now I have to determine, based on that information, as well as what CIA says, what the truth is. And at this point … I do not know what the truth is.”
He added: “There clearly were a number of things, many things, that I read in that report that were very concerning and disturbing to me, and ones that I would want to look into immediately, if I were to be confirmed as CIA director.”
Brennan, 59, is a New Jersey native who speaks Arabic and studied at the American University in Cairo, Egypt while earning an undergraduate degree from Fordham University. He later earned a master’s in government from the University of Texas.
He joined the CIA in 1980, starting a career that saw him work as a Near Eastern and South Asian analyst, a Saudi Arabia station chief and leader of the agency’s terrorism analysis. He was the CIA’s daily intelligence briefer at the White House during President Bill Clinton’s administration and served as former CIA Director George Tenet’s chief of staff.
After serving as interim director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Brennan left government to become president of The Analysis Corporation, a security consulting firm.
During then-Sen. Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, Brennan served as an intelligence adviser. Once Obama won, Brennan was considered a shoo-in for CIA director, but he withdrew his name amid criticism of his support for the use of torture in George W. Bush’s administration.
Instead, he became Obama’s deputy national security adviser. When the job of CIA director opened again in early 2013, Brennan was Obama’s choice – despite the concerns of left-leaning groups like the American Civil Liberties Union.
He was confirmed on a 63-44 vote and was sworn in on March 8, 2013.