Appearing on CBS Face the Nation Sunday morning, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he will ask his colleagues to hold off on the confirmation of John Brennan for CIA Director and Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary until the White House coughs up more information about the 9/11 terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
“I don’t think we should allow Brennan to go forward for the CIA directorship, Hagel to be confirmed to secretary of defense, until the White House gives us an accounting,” Graham said on Face the Nation. “Did the president ever pick up the phone and call anyone in the Libyan government to help these folks? What did the president do?”
Graham's comments came just days after outgoing CIA Director Leon Panetta revealed he had one conversation with President Obama the night of the Benghazi attack.
Prior to Graham's statement on CBS, Brennan was expected to have a pretty smooth confirmation process while Hagel faces a tougher road. In fact, there's a 50/50 chance he'll drop out all together.
His big problem is that no one much wants him running the Pentagon. Congressional Republicans consider him a traitor. Congressional Democrats see him as anti-gay and anti-abortion, undercutting their support for him. And Northeastern Democrats (and some others) worry about his stance on Israel. Democratic support in the Senate appears more dutiful than passionate.
Brennan testified before the Senate last week and it appears he may have lied under oath about the release of a Benghazi suspect and the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, which won't be helpful for him or the White House when it comes to counting votes for confirmation.
Several of Brennan’s answers before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence were problematic. Indeed, his three and a half hours of testimony raised important questions on two issues central to his nomination: the politicization of intelligence and the Obama administration’s approach to fighting radical Islam. Brennan will face additional questions in both areas at a closed hearing on his nomination on February 12. He should.
During the hearing last week, several senators asked Brennan about the enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs) used by the CIA during the Bush administration. In a 2007 interview, Brennan offered a broad defense of the program. “There [has] been a lot of information that has come out from these interrogation procedures that the agency has in fact used against the real hardcore terrorists,” Brennan said. “It has saved lives,” he continued. “And let’s not forget, these are hardened terrorists who have been responsible for 9/11, who have shown no remorse at all for the deaths of 3,000 innocents.”
In the same interview, however, Brennan criticized waterboarding as “inconsistent with American values” and “something that should be prohibited.” That wasn’t good enough for many Democrats, who not only believed that EITs were immoral but also desperately needed them to be deemed ineffective, even if the evidence demonstrated otherwise. So Democrats on the intelligence committee undertook a “study” of EITs in an effort to discredit them further. Not surprisingly, the report questions the practices’ effectiveness.
When Brennan was asked for his thoughts on the 350-page executive summary—again, prepared only by Democrats—he testified that it had changed his mind. “I must tell you, senator, that reading this report from the committee raises serious questions about the information that I was given at the time and the impression I had at that time. Now I have to determine what, based on that information as well as what CIA says, what the truth is.”
So Brennan trusts a partisan report produced by senators whose conclusions were announced before the study was even commissioned as much as his own firsthand, contemporaneous knowledge of the effectiveness of the program while he was at the CIA? As Senator Saxby Chambliss pointed out, Brennan received more than 50 emails on the results of interrogations of Abu Zubaydah, one of three al Qaeda leaders to be waterboarded. Brennan’s predecessors who have spoken about the issue publicly—Michael Hayden and Leon Panetta—have acknowledged that EITs produced valuable information. And a close look at the CIA inspector general’s report on EITs leaves readers with one inescapable conclusion: They worked.
If Brennan’s apparent change of heart on EITs causes concern about his ability to put analysis ahead of politics, his comments on Ali Harzi, a suspect in the Benghazi attacks last fall, raise questions about the Obama administration’s approach to radical Islam and—more immediately troubling—Brennan’s veracity.
Did John Brennan lie under oath? The answer appears to be yes.
I like Graham's approach to this and hope other Senators will get up the courage to join him in demanding answers and accountability surrounding what happened in Benghazi on 9/11/2012. Is asking for more information about why four Americans were left to die asking too much? No. And in case you're wondering, the guy who made the notorious "YouTube video" that had nothing to do with the Benghazi attack, is still sitting in jail while Hillary Clinton enjoys her retirement.