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Brennan Tapped to Head C.I.A.

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    President Obama nominated Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan as our nations next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency today. Mr. Brennan was President Obama's top National Security Advisor during the 2008 campaign and was on the short list to be CIA Director after President Obama won the presidency in 2008. With over twenty-five years experience in the intelligence agency, Mr. Brennan is more than prepared for the job that is ahead of him as our nations top spy.

    Mr. Brennan has extensive experience in counter intelligence and seems to be the logical fit as our nations next CIA director. He understands the way that the CIA operates and has most assuredly built a solid rapport with a good deal of the career workers at the CIA. The CIA is an entity in itself and Mr. Brennan understands the ins and outs of this covert agency. As our nation begins to move out of the concept of foreign wars and endless occupations into more covert and small scale endeavors, Mr. Obama needs someone at the CIA that can carry out this new mission. Mr. Obama also needs someone that he can trust at the CIA. There is nothing more important than the President and the CIA being on the same page.

    The refocusing of our resources on covert missions is nothing new in our nations history. It is far cheaper to do covert missions and drone strikes than occupy foreign lands. The actual value of these drone strikes and covert missions can be left for a future posting. Although they have dramatically reduced the number of combat deaths of American soldiers, they often have far too much collateral damage for this writers stomach to handle. My hope is that Mr. Brennan understands this and focuses our nations spy resources on true counter-terrorism techniques that will actually pay dividends for not just our country, but the world as a whole.

    Thoughts on Mr. Brennan's selection and why President Obama decided to go with a strong ally to take over the agency?
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    No, I'm not sure if this guy is a good choice; considering he has been there for 25 years already means he's got a baked in state of mind under the Cheney's and Bushes.
    Thus an indoctrinated "see ghosts everywhere" mentality; he is the "nut" who loves these drones; the far from my bed kill machine.
    These drones will one day bite us in the butt; do people think if you kill off someone who you do not know, but only kills because of our intelligence says so, then the family or friends of who ever we kill will look for revenge one way or another. Will we ever learn to stop playing "god" or being the policeman in this world and just go about this world and kill anyone we do not like with these drones. Let us instead concentrate on the internal crime here first. Furthermore it is never disclosed who we have killed with these things and where. No this guy is a full scale danger for this country.
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    This is a difficult one. John Brennan is certainly qualified for the position in terms of knowledge and experience in counter intelligence. However, he does have real baggage from his days in the Bush administration where by his public statements he supported Bush's torture and extraordinary rendition policies. Was he a firm advocate and champion of torture or was he acting in loyalty to Bush? Whatever, he went along and played his part, but so did Colin Powell in selling the Iraq war to the UN with a speech full of falsehoods about Saddam Hussein's nuclear capabilities.

    Those unpopular Bush policies of which Brennan was a key actor should normally disqualify him by many on the left that feel that none of the Iraq war co-conspirators have been brought to justice for their lying. However, President Obama is looking forward and not backward, so the current concerns seem to be centered around his advocacy of drone warfare. And again is Brennan playing the role of the loyal soldier or advisor or both? The drone program has President Obama's stamp all over it. He owns it. And no matter who takes the post of CIA director, the drone warfare program is most likely going to least as long as the "war on terror" is official policy.

    I saw a Washington Post-ABC opinion poll from February of last year that indicated that 83 percent of Americans approve of President Obama's use of drone strikes against terrorist suspects abroad. That number seems high and maybe another poll taken today might show less support. Nevertheless, if Americans are viewing drones as the "lesser of two evils" then it makes sense...when the alternative is "boots on the ground." Americans just want no part of boots on the ground anymore. They want the troops home from Afghanistan and they don't want any engagement in Syria.

    So "out of sight, out of mind" drone attacks on suspected terrorist in Pakistan, Yemen and other countries seem to have the "okay" of the American public. Most Americans have little connection with these countries, and therefore little empathy when the drones kill innocent civilians as "collateral damage."...and I hate that expression from the Rumsfeld era. But when does it all end?

    I agree with Dutch that in the long run these drone attacks will come back to bite us in one way or another. When one gets past all the political spin of 9/11 like "they hate our freedom", wasn't that attack really just revenge by a crazed madman for American policies in the Middle East? Killing people whether it is family members or just those of the same tribe or religion can drive opponents to do outrageous things. Those experiences are forever etched in their brains, much like some of the Afghan soldiers today who are turning their guns on their American trainers.

    In looking at Brennan's qualifications versus those of other mentioned candidates (Michael Morrell, Michael Vickers, Jane Harman, Tom Donilon) I'm not sure we would see any different policies. In this respect, I'm inclined to go along with President Obama's choice.
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    "schmidt" the point I'm making about the drones is that not only do we (as tax paying people) who they kill. In other words they can kill anyone they do not like or have a "bad" money deal with or is playing "wiki-leaks" etc. so anyone who may know more about what is really going on; and what the public should not know. No I think this is a huge tool for "cover up" killing.
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    Dutch --

    Yes I agree with you on how drones are becoming the "weapon of choice," and it is one area where I have severe concerns about the wider usage and the long term implications. Drones Watch is a pretty good website that carries articles by notable people that echo your sentiments. Here's one that refers to retired general Stanley McCrystal:

    David Alexander, Reuters, January 9, 2013: Retired General Cautions Against Overuse of “Hated” Drones

    "McChrystal, who authored the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, said use of drones had enabled him to carry out missions with smaller groups of special operations forces because the “eye in the sky” provided backup security.

    “What scares me about drone strikes is how they are perceived around the world,” he said in an interview. “The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes … is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.”

    McChrystal said the use of drones exacerbates a “perception of American arrogance that says, ‘Well we can fly where we want, we can shoot where we want, because we can.’”

    Another article by Naomi Wolf highlights the fears about drones being used inside America to spy on Americans.

    Naomi Wolf, The Guardian, December 25, 2012: The Coming Drone Attack on America

    "People often ask me, in terms of my argument about “ten steps” that mark the descent to a police state or closed society, at what stage we are. I am sorry to say that with the importation of what will be tens of thousands of drones, by both US military and by commercial interests, into US airspace, with a specific mandate to engage in surveillance and with the capacity for weaponization – which is due to begin in earnest at the start of the new year – it means that the police state is now officially here.

    "In February of this year, Congress passed the FAA Reauthorization Act, with its provision to deploy fleets of drones domestically. Jennifer Lynch, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, notes that this followed a major lobbying effort, “a huge push by […] the defense sector” to promote the use of drones in American skies: 30,000 of them are expected to be in use by 2020, some as small as hummingbirds – meaning that you won’t necessarily see them, tracking your meeting with your fellow-activists, with your accountant or your congressman, or filming your cruising the bars or your assignation with your lover, as its video-gathering whirs.

    "Others will be as big as passenger planes. Business-friendly media stress their planned abundant use by corporations: police in Seattle have already deployed them."


    I share all these concerns, but are any of them relevant to the selection of John Brennan as CIA chief? Brennan appears to me to be a "good soldier" carrying out the mandate of the Commander-in-Chief, whether it be Bush or Obama. And when I look at the other candidates for the job, I don't see where any of them would have the power, influence or will to change our drone policy. Maybe Joe Biden, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel will be more of an influence on Obama in that regard than John Brennan.

    And if Obama were to nominate an anti-drone CIA chief, would that person be accepted or even approved by the Senate? A "Dennis Kucinich think-a-like" has about as much chance of becoming CIA chief as Dennis Kucinich outspoken critic of drones.

    Jeh Johnson, retired counsel to the Pentagon, in a speech to the Oxford Union discussed the end of the war on terror.

    The Telegraph, November 30, 2012: US 'approaching tipping point when military conflict with al-Qaeda should end'

    "There will come a tipping point," he said in the speech, "a tipping point at which so many of the leaders and operatives of al-Qaeda and its affiliates have been killed or captured, and the group is no longer able to attempt or launch a strategic attack against the United States."

    "When that time comes, Mr Johnson said, the responsibility for tackling al-Qaeda should pass to the police and other law enforcement agencies.

    Johnson doesn't specifically address drone attacks, but does talk about the legal basis of this war against al Qaeda and when it should end. I for one hope it ends soon with some kind of statement by President Obama, but how does that affect the legal implications for continuation of drone attacks against enemies...if in fact there are no legally declared enemies?

    And if Obama doesn't decare an end to the war on terror, does that mean endless drone attacks? I just don't know.
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    "schmidt" indeed good research, however my point is that they do not fully disclose who they kill. In other words a bussiness deal gone bad, sent in a drone and"fix" it etc. I do not like a certain person who lives in land "x" erradicate him etc. I certainly do see "political" misuse and cover ups on the horizon. I worked in Washington, so I know their mentality: My way or the highway or get a drone up your butt!!
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    Dutch Wrote: "schmidt" indeed good research, however my point is that they do not fully disclose who they kill. In other words a bussiness deal gone bad, sent in a drone and"fix" it etc. I do not like a certain person who lives in land "x" erradicate him etc. I certainly do see "political" misuse and cover ups on the horizon. I worked in Washington, so I know their mentality: My way or the highway or get a drone up your butt!!
    Dutch --

    John Brennan explained the Obama administration's policies about drones in this talk on NPR radio:

    John Brennan Delivers Speech On Drone Ethics

    I read it carefully and I won't paraphrase. I believe Brennan spells out what I would call the "Obama doctrine" on the use of drones. Maybe it's a bit idealistic because collateral damage most likely does occur more than they seem ready to admit.

    Of course, Brennan doesn't get into your question of not fully disclosing who they kill. By way of example, are you suggesting that Obama would use a drone against someone because of a "business deal gone bad" or because he didn't like a "certain person who lives in land x"? If that's what you are truly suggesting, then I would have to disagree with you on those points.

    I am not defending Obama's use of drones, but at the same time I won't read into it anymore than what it alternative to "boots on the ground."
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    "schmidt" sure I gave possible examples; however I tried to "paint" a picture; what if other countries do the same and erradicate some people they do not like here; I guess it is not only Brennan who controls these things. Here in FL there is a company who makes them and sells to .....?
    Anyway what I try to point out it is not so simple as "trusting" the Government. a dangerous trend indeed.
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    schmidt drones being an alternative to boots on the ground is right, but mostly it's an alternative to manned aircraft in the air. The drones do exactly the same thing as manned aircraft but are much cheaper. Drones are merely newer and more efficient technology, it is the POLICY of the US government that sends the drones on their missions to spy and kill. The US POLICY will send the most effective aircraft which can do the job that US POLICY says will be done and drones are more efficient. The F22 and F35 airplanes are maybe the last manned combat aircraft to be produced, and drones are the future. Why? Money/cost effectiveness/efficiency. I am not saying that it is right that we have the killer drones, I am saying drones are the future of spying and killing by aircraft.
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    "jamesn" I do not fully agree with your analyses; these thing are in a total different way used. I guess the US does not dare to go with a manned plane above someone elses soil; with the drones they do, because they are hard to spot, also a drone operator sits relaxed in a padded chair and not in an aircraft cockpit which requires a lot more interface with the flying itself and systems. Therefore as I mentioned these drones have a different operating environment and are presently used in Yemen, Pakistan, Lybia, Somalia etc. Deployment is easy because no large airfield is needed nor long runways; If they would do the same with an F35 only the noise alone would wake up a whole city,for instance when it takes off. So sorry it can not be compared to fighter planes at all. Also these things can loiter for days; while a "jet" max a few hours etc.
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    Dutch these thing can loiter for days and that is but one advantage of drones over manned aircraft. Not risking the life of the pilot and reduced cost of aircraft because there is no space and weight being taken by the pilot and associated life support systems. Yes they are smaller and quieter, too.

    If you think the US does not dare go with a manned plane above someone elses soil I disagree the US has done that for many decades. Remember Powers who was shot down in his U2 over the USSR? Manned overflights over Cuba during the Cuban missile crises? The SR71 spy plane is famous for being shot at many times all over the world but never hit. The US will fly over someone elses soil, the drone is just a less costly and less risky way to do what the US government is going to do, but if the drones did not exist there would still be overflights. Maybe not as many but they would happen nonetheless.

    You say drones "have a different operating environment"...but they fly in the same airspace and perform the same tasks, so how is it different?
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    "jamesn" no, these are operated totally different than as you mentioned an SR 71; which is not at all suited for low level flights; spy planes or satelites have a total different role; sure some of their data may be used to program the drones (location/target). As "schmidt" clearly indicated the drones are used by all kinds of different sectors of any of the forces; the "spy" planes again by either CIA or other inteligence groups and may not have any offensive role. (not guided weapons)
    Anyway just like you flying a "model" airplane it does not mean you can fly a 747; there is a huge difference; just try to get a commercial licence then you know enough; so there is a total different set up for "drones" related to flying any "jet" ; sure you can "fly" a plane on your I-Pad; but reality is quite different; I used to fly.
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    Dutch yes the SR71 and a drone have differences, but they also have similiarities. They are both aircraft which fly over unfriendly country and both are used as reconnaissance platforms. The drones started out as recon platforms then they hung missiles on some of them and changed them from hunters to hunter-killers. Different altitudes, different speeds, different costs (cost, now there's a key factor), different pilot systems, but both are recon platforms that is why they were manufactured and deployed. It's why they exist. Anf if the costs were the same, the SR71 may still be flying instead of sitting in museums. Drones are more cost effective.

    Flying a manned aircraft and "flying" a drone are completely different but both are machines controlled by a human and both are aerial vehicles which fly over enemy territory and gather recon. So we are both right.

    You are talking differences in operating environment of the aircraft (and you are right) and I'm talking end results (reconnaissance). Bottom line is money (as usual) the drones do the job cheaper.
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    "jamesn" thanks; sure money is always an element, also savings on pilot training etc. But as you said we both are right related to the operation environment etc. Yes indeed what will the future become if all advanced countries let these things loose? So I wonder what the UN will come up with.
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    Good question about what the UN will do about them. Drones are already pretty common, the US lost one in Iran and Israel has claimed to have shot down a drone. Most advanced countries already have them and the countries that do not have them soon will. They are getting cheaper and easier to obtain every year, and no one will stop them now.