NPR national security reporter Mary Louise Kelley tweeted on Friday that she would be interviewing CIA Director John Brennan on Saturday. Brennan was just on 60 Minutes last weekend, where Scott Pelley tossed him softballs. This time around, Kelley asked the Twittersphere for suggestions:
1. Is it ever acceptable for the CIA to mistreat prisoners?
As a CIA official during the Bush administration, Brennan strongly endorsed “enhanced interrogation” techniques. But during his 2013 confirmation hearing to become CIA director, Brennan said that the program had “very serious issues,” and that waterboarding is “reprehensible.”
After the release of the summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report, Brennan changed his position again, and argued that the techniques provided “useful” intelligence. What does he really think?
2. If we get a President Trump, what will stop the CIA from torturing again?
Brennan has said that the agency is “not contemplating at all getting back into the interrogation program.” But he made no predictions. “As for the future, he said, “I defer to future policymakers.”
Because there was no accountability for the torture that took place during the Bush administration — no criminal prosecutions, no national reckoning — there’s cause for concern that the next time a perceived emergency comes up, we’ll torture again.
3. Do you still attribute the intelligence failures of Paris to Edward Snowden?
A few days after the terrorist attacks in Paris, Brennan gave a speech suggesting the Paris attackers might have succeeded because “unauthorized disclosures” by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden are making it harder to find terrorists. He implied that in response to Snowden’s revelations, terrorists had begun to use unbreakable encryption to protect their communications.
4. Why did you deny hacking Senate computers?
After Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., accused the CIA of breaking into computers being used by Senate staffers, Brennan publicly insisted that “we wouldn’t do that. I mean, that’s — that’s just beyond the — you know, the scope of reason in terms of what we would do.”
But that’s exactly what happened. And according to a report by the CIA inspector general, Brennan had told unnamed CIA employees early on to “use whatever means necessary” to find out how the Senate obtained privileged documents, and had been briefed along the way. Brennan’s denial was such a blatant lie that members of Congress called for his resignation:
5. Do you support signature strikes?
During his time as President Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, Brennan had an influential role in shaping the U.S.’s targeted killing program. During the same period, the CIA conducted signature strikes — drone strikes where the identity of the victim was unknown.
There is overwhelming evidence that the CIA often does not know who it kills. In December 2013, CIA drones struck a wedding party in Yemen, killing at least 12 people, including women and children. In January 2015, a drone struck a compound that contained two aid workers being held hostage. The White House later acknowledged that it did not know they were in the compound. Does Brennan support strikes even when he isn’t sure who’s going to be killed?