John Brennan’s Approach as the New CIA Director

Barring unforeseen Washington politicking at the last minute, John Brennan is being announced later today as President-elect Obama’s choice to replace Mike Hayden as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

I’ve just learned that fact, not from an intelligence colleague, or a secret spy-alumni network, but from an email from a reporter.  There was no embargo on the information, nor a request to keep it confidential, so… there you go.  By my quick search on Google News, Microsoft’s Live News Search, and even Twitter, no one else is publishing this yet (as I write at 1:45pm EST).  Even his Wikipedia page is mum, though that won’t last.

[UPDATE, 11/14/2008: Since there was no announcement as of last night, my use of “later today” above is a clanger. Ah, hindsight – should have written “soon” I suppose. At least I had the foresight to caveat with the possibility of last-minute political hitches. As reader Zach Tumin of Harvard’s Kennedy School pointed out to me, Brennan is already being zinged as a “discredited crony” by at least one CIA veteran in an op-ed today, so the political battle still rages – I’m shocked, shocked!  In any case, I’ll leave unedited my post because the observations on Brennan are, I think, relevant if only because he’s serving as Obama’s top adviser on intelligence and head of his intelligence transition team.  And as Noah Schactman of WIRED’s DangerBlog points out in his cite of my column, “take with the appropriate helping of salt. You know how unreliable those reporters are.”🙂 ]

Brennan’s approach to the future of the business of intelligence has been the lynchpin to candidate Obama’s policy stances during the campaign, and in an interview back in the spring (while advising Obama), Brennan outlined some interesting thoughts on our current approach to fighting terrorism:

I am a strong proponent of trying to focus more of our efforts on the upstream phenomenon of terrorism. I make the analogy to pollution. We learned that pollutants kill us when they get into the water we drink or the fish we eat or the air we breathe. But I think we also learned that we have to go upstream to identify and eliminate those sources of pollution. Terrorism is a tactic, and we have to be more focused upstream. Since 9/11, understandably we’ve focused downstream, on those terrorists who might be in our midst or trying to kill us, the operators. I think there needs to be much more attention paid to those upstream factors and conditions that spawn terrorists. (National Journal, “The Counter-Terror Campaign,” March 7, 2008)

Brennan’s appointment represents a return to an old semi-tradition of having a career Agency person as DCI, something that hasn’t been true for more than a decade. He will, however, have to lead the Agency in a new context from his years of service there – in a role subordinant to the DNI, at least until the new President is heard from on any potential “re-reform” of the intelligence community in a post-“post-9/11 era.”

I’ve met Brennan a couple of times but only really “worked” with him after he retired from CIA and became chairman of a great group, the Intelligence and National Security Alliance.  Many of my friends worked with him more closely and respect him. I also can say good things about his most recent employer, The Analysis Corp. (TAC) and have solid respect for the outfit, including during the short time he’s been at the helm. 

One tidbit from his bio which I’m sure will be highlighted in media profiles: as an undergraduate getting his Political Science degree at Fordham, he spent a year at the American University of Cairo in Egypt, studying Arabic and Middle Eastern studies. He’s had more direct contact since, of course, but every little bit helps!

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9 Responses

  1. I am still waiting for official news confirmation. I have seen many people on twitter saying you have scooped this (and good for you to do so), but for Intellipedia and the IC community purposes, we need the official word to be handed down.

    interestingly enough, Brennan was on The Drake’s predictive market, he was in 5th place earlier, now you can see he is taking a commanding lead. Most likely because many are tweeting your blog as calling it.

  2. […] chief John Brennan "is being announced later today as President-elect Obama’s choice to replace Mike Hayden as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency." That’s according to former intel bigwig Lewis Shepherd, who says he learned about the […]

  3. […] Director, CIA:  John Brennan.  A pick probably influenced by a blog entry found here. […]

  4. Wow, Mikie is out of the Company? The One Man who could have blown the whistle on UBL’s 9-11 plan (according to James Bamford’s “Shadow Factory” book jacket) and look how they treat him? Wow.

  5. […] CIA Director John Brennan (according to Marc Ambinder and Lewis Shepherd) will undoubtedly endure a difficult confirmation hearing.  Mike Scheuer, Ray McGovern, and others […]

  6. How you think when the economic crisis will end? I wish to make statistics of independent opinions!

  7. Congratulation to your fast posting. Must be a satisfaction for you to be the first one🙂 Blogs with hot news catch visitors, so well done!

  8. […] chief John Brennan "is being announced later today as President-elect Obama’s choice to replace Mike Hayden as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency." That’s according to former intel bigwig Lewis Shepherd, who says he learned about the pick […]

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