Subscribe to Our Daily Brief

Subscribe to our Daily Brief

* indicates required

Below you will find a guide to prominent research done on John Brennan’s positions on counterterror issues, his background and career at the CIA, and his general world-view.


The Big Picture

John Brennan’s view of Islamist organizations is dangerous, and reflects Obama administration thinking on the subject. Essentially, the Obama administration’s global counter-terror strategy can be summarized as follows: empower ‘moderate’ Islamist groups by bringing them into the political process, which thereby lessens the appeal of so-called rejectionist groups like al Qaeda, which oppose the political process.

The strategy is based on a flawed understanding both of the ideological basis and a misdiagnosis of the popular appeal of Islamist movements. These errors can be summarized in the following statements:

  1. The cause of global terrorism is the lack of a functioning political environment. Note: as administration policy stresses that ideological considerations are irrelevant, sociological or strictly political science hypotheses are the only ones left.
  2. An open marketplace of ideas will necessarily benefit more ‘moderate’ groups.
  3. Former ‘extremist’ groups, once responsible for the functioning of government, will necessarily follow more responsible courses of action and policies that will benefit the US and its allies in the long run.

The administration considers America’s global terrorist adversary simply “al Qaeda and its affiliates,” narrowly defining this group based on operational affiliations rather than ideological ones. Indeed, the administration’s strategy depends on blindness to ideological considerations. (For example, Ft Hood shooter Nidal Hasan is not considered connected to al Qaeda, even though he was in communication with AQ leader al Awlaki via email and was ideologically aligned with the group’s mission.)

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

Responses to Questionnaire for Completion by Presidential Nominees (1)
Responses to Additional Prehearing Questions (2)

This was an “open-book” take-home mid-term. Note in the primary questionnaire he says he received gifts from various people, and Hakan Fidan is identified as a “foreign official” – he is indeed that – but not just any foreign official.  He is head of Turkish intelligence.

Obama CIA Nominee John Brennan Wrong for the Job
Steven Emerson and John Rossomando, IPT News | February 5, 2013

Includes his statements on Hizballah; Statements advocating for engagement with Iran and opposing “iran-bashing”; History of working with unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation trial, such as ISNA; Announcing support for concept of jihad as “purification” and denying it has a violent or war-like component; Denies the doctrinal motivations of terrorists.

Brennan further displayed his eagerness to kowtow to Islamist demands in the fall of 2011. After a small number of materials in FBI training manuals and libraries were found to be excessively negative in describing Islam as a religion and Muslims as a people, Islamist groups demanded a purge of anything they considered offensive.

An Oct. 19, 2011 letter to Brennan written by Muslim Advocates Executive Director Farhana Khera and signed by 57 Muslim, Arab, and South Asian organizations demanded that Brennan create “an interagency task force, led by the White House,” that would, among other things, review all counterterror trainers, so as to purge those that the Muslim organizations, which included many with Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood ties, found unacceptable. The task force would also “purge all federal government training materials of biased materials”; “implement a mandatory re-training program for FBI agents, U.S. Army officers, and all federal, state and local law enforcement who have been subjected to biased training”; and more to ensure that only the message about Islam and jihad preferred by the signatories would get through to intelligence and law enforcement agents.

Brennan readily agreed, promising in a November 3, 2011 response to Khera written on White House stationery obtained by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, that such an interagency task force was indeed “necessary,” and agreeing to purge training programs of all materials that the Muslim groups found objectionable.

To this day, officials have declined to identify those with whom they consulted in identifying the material to be removed. During an April 2012 talk at the New York Police Department, Brennan refused to answer when asked specifically whether Muslim Advocates was among those consulted.

John Brennan as CIA chief would serve his own interests, not America’s
Michael Scheuer, Foreign Policy Journal | February 6, 2013

Specific charges of negligence by Brennan, regarding the capture of Osama Bin Laden, from the CIA’s Chief of the Bin Laden Unit Michael Scheuer.

1) 1996: When, in December, 1995, the Agency set up a unit to dismantle al-Qaeda and capture or help the U.S. military kill Osama bin Laden, one of that unit’s first actions was to ask Mr. Brennan—who was then what George Tenet has described as “CIA’s senior officer on the Arabian Peninsula”—to secure from the Saudi intelligence service some very basic information and documents about bin Laden. The Saudis did not respond, and so the bin Laden unit sent frequent messages to Mr. Brennan asking him to secure the data. When we finally received a response from Mr. Brennan, it was to tell us that he would no longer pass the bin Laden unit’s requests to the Saudis because they were annoyed by them. DCI George Tenet backed Mr. Brennan’s decision, and when I resigned from CIA in November 2004, the Saudis had not delivered the requested data.

Comment: I speak on this from firsthand experience, as I was the chief of the bin Laden unit at the time. The messages from Mr. Brennan refusing to push the Saudis on bin Laden are in the archives of several government agencies, but, more important, they are in the archive of the 9/11 Commission. (NB: I know the documents are there because I supplied them to the Commission.)  In the latter archive, the messages have been fully redacted to protect the CIA sources and methods and so ought to be easily available to the Senators and to the media via a Freedom of Information request.

Revisiting Jihad John Brennan
Patrick Poole, PJ Media | January 7, 2013

A Brennan-101 expose showing the dangerous views of the nominee.

March 2008: John McCain’s passport information leaked from John Brennan’s company during presidential campaign (key witness murdered during investigation)

April 2008: Brennan tells the New York Times that US government official must stop “Iran-bashing”

Feb 2010: Brennan attacks critics of Obama Admin’s handling of “underwear bomber” Abdulmutallab as a criminal, not a terrorist, saying that critics are “serving the goals of Al-Qaeda”

May 2010: Brennan says he wants to build up “Hezbollah moderates”

May 2010: Brennan defends ‘Jihad’ as a ‘legitimate tenet of Islam’

June 2010: Washington Times editorial slams Brennan, saying, “President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser knows very little about terrorism, and that’s scary for America.”

Aug 2010: Brennan storms out of meeting with Washington Times editorial staff after he claims he was misquoted by newspaper and editor begins reading Brennan’s own quotes back to him out loud

Sept 2010: Known HAMAS operative given escorted tour of National Counterterrorism Center

May 2012: Brennan implicated in major White House intelligence breach involving UK/Saudi Al-Qaeda infiltrator

Aug 2012: Brennan attacks critics of politically-driven White House intelligence leaks

Sept 2012: House Intel Committee Chairman Mike Rogers says changes in CIA’s Benghazi attack talking points blaming Mohammed video happened under deputies committee chaired by Brennan

Obama’s CAIR-kowtowing, soft-on-jihad CIA Director nominee
Michelle Malkin | January 7, 2013

A useful review of Brennan’s statements to Islamist organizations– including the attorney for the infamous ‘flying imams’– in which he apologizes for and complains about the American people’s concern about terrorism.

Brennan told Shahin that the post-9/11 response of the Bush administration was a “reaction some people might say was over the top in some areas” (insert indignant grievance-monger nodding and mmm-hmm-ing here) and that “in an overabundance of caution [we] implemented a number of security measures and activities that upon reflection now we look back after the heat of the battle has died down a bit we say they were excessive, okay.”

It gets worse: Brennan then went on to decry the “ignorant feelings” of Americans outraged at the jihadi attacks on American soil. And then he told Shahin and the audience of Muslim students that he “was very concerned after the attack in Fort Hood as well as the December 25 attack that all of sudden there were people who went back into this fearful position that lashed out not thinking through what was reasonable and appropriate.”

The Fort Hood jihadist slaughtered 14 innocent soldiers and an unborn baby after an Army career openly threatening the lives of our soldiers and Brennan is wringing his hands about the rest of us “lashing out” over government incompetence. He believes our true sin is not in the systemic underreacting by the military, homeland security, intel, and White House officials in charge, but in the “overreacting” of the American public.

With clueless capitulationists like Brennan in charge of our safety, who needs enemies?

Oppose Brennan for CIA Director
Andrew McCarthy, PJ Media | January 4, 2013

Brennan’s agenda is the antithesis of the intelligence mission. His goal has been to portray our enemies as a small, unthreatening fringe of charlatan “violent extremists,” who kill wantonly and are unconnected to any “legitimate” Islam. Thus, he maintains for example that the only “legitimate” interpretation of the “tenet of Islam” known as jihad is: a “holy struggle … to purify oneself or one’s community.”

Even taken at face value, Brennan’s assertion is absurd. There is between Islam and the West no common understanding of the good, and thus no consensus about “purity.” In Islam, to “purify” something means to make it more compliant with sharia, Islam’s legal code and societal framework. Sharia is anti-freedom and anti-equality, so to purify oneself in an Islamic sense would necessarily mean something very different from what we in the West would think of as struggling to become a better person.

But there is an even more fundamental reason not to take Brennan’s remarks at face value: they run afoul of what mainstream Islam itself says about jihad. Have a look at Reliance of the Traveller, the popular sharia manual (it is available on Amazon). It is quite straightforward on the matter: “Jihad means to war against non-Muslims.”


A ‘See-No-Jihad’-ist at the CIA?
Frank Gaffney, The Washington Times | February 4, 2013

This danger is all the more worrying because, even before John Brennan was nominated for the CIA job, he sought to circumscribe what its personnel – and their counterparts elsewhere in other intelligence agencies, the military, homeland security and law enforcement – could know about the Islamist enemies we confront.  He officiated over the purging of files and training materials and the termination of trainers whose failure to toe his willfully blind policy was deemed “offensive” to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and other, so-called Muslim “activists.”

Worse yet, during John Brennan’s tenure at the White House, the Obama administration actually promulgated guidelines ensuring that, henceforth, “countering violent extremism” training materials and trainers paid for by the Homeland Security Department and used by any government agency – federal, state or local – must effectively be approved by these “community partners.”  That means we are now allowing agents of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization sworn to our destruction, to determine our understanding and awareness of the threat they and their fellow Islamists pose to the rest of us.


A Spooky Pick for CIA
Michael Walsh, New York Post | January 3, 2013

When the CIA was established under the National Security Act of 1947, it was designed strictly as an intelligence agency, without police or military powers. Yes, it always had a Directorate of Operations – but nothing like the warmaking force it has now.

As covert operations have expanded in the wake of 9/11, the agency has evolved into a para-military outfit capable of waging covert warfare without congressional authorization or even much oversight, and beyond the reach of the Uniform Code of Military Justice or the Geneva Conventions.

In effect – and especially as employed by the Obama administration – the CIA has become the president’s private army, with a classified budget, contracts with some extremely dubious operatives and under-the-table relations with thuggish and oppressive foreign governments. With its fleet of armed drones, it regularly rains death from the skies on enemies (some of them American citizens).

That’s a power that ought to be under the control of the regular military, not directly under the chief executive and his national-security henchmen.

Obama CIA nominee hedged on Hezbollah terrorists in 2006: ‘You can’t divide the world into good and evil’
Charles Johnson, The Daily Caller | January 30, 2013

In an August 2006 C-SPAN interview, Brennan said the second-deadliest terror organization in U.S. history should be understood not as a thoroughly evil force, but as a “complex” organization with a “social and political nature.”“For example … it would be nice to be able to put Hezbollah in a category of being totally evil, but Hezbollah as an organization is a very complex one that has terrorist arm to it. It has a social and political nature to it as well.”

“You can’t divide the world into good and evil,” Brennan continued. “There is a lot of good out there that tends to be camouflaged along with the evil. What we need to do as a government and a people is to really have a better appreciation of the needs and the challenges that people throughout the world face.”

Hezbollah, a dominant Shiite group in Lebanon, claimed responsibility for the Oct. 23, 1983 truck bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 241 members of a U.S. peacekeeping military force. The attack marked the deadliest single day for the U.S. military since the beginning of the 1968 Tet offensive in Vietnam.

Earlier that same year, a Hezbollah suicide bomber killed 63 Americans in a blast that leveled portions of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.

In graduate thesis, John Brennan argued for government censorship: ‘Too much freedom is possible’
Charles Johnson, The Daily Caller | January 23, 2013

In his 1980 graduate thesis at the University of Texas at Austin, John Brennan denied the existence of “absolute human rights” and argued in favor of censorship on the part of the Egyptian dictatorship.

“Since the press can play such an influential role in determining the perceptions of the masses, I am in favor of some degree of government censorship,” Brennan wrote. “Inflamatory [sic] articles can provoke mass opposition and possible violence, especially in developing political systems.”

The thesis, “Human Rights: A Case Study of Egypt,” was a requirement for Brennan’s Master of Arts degree in government with a Middle Eastern studies concentration. It grew out of his time studying at the American University in Cairo.

Meet John Brennan, Obama’s Assassination Czar
Patrick Poole, PJMedia | June 6, 2012

Brennan was involved in administration intrigue related to the release of convicted Libyan Pan Am Flight 103 bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi from a Scottish jail in August 2009. At the time of Megrahi’s release — when he returned to Libya to a national hero’s welcome — Brennan described the release as “unfortunate, inappropriate, and wrong” and called for his reimprisonment. However, Obama administration documents obtained by The Sunday Times revealed that the White House had secretly informed Scottish authorities that they found compassionate release more palatable than the reimprisonment of Megrahi in Libya.

In September 2010, after I broke the story that a known top U.S. Hamas official had been given a guided tour of the top-secret National Counterterrorism Center and FBI Academy at Quantico under Brennan’s watch, several former top intelligence and defense officials again called for his resignation.

Last month, it was revealed that Brennan was implicated in a serious intelligence breach detailing an ongoing counterterrorism operation led by British and Saudi intelligence agencies that had placed an operative deep inside the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) organization. The White House leak forced the termination of the operation and the immediate withdrawal of the double agent, infuriating our foreign intelligence allies.

Email Print
Copyright © 1988-2015 Center for Security Policy | All Rights Reserved