Posted by on January 16, 2013 in Blog

President Obama has created quite a controversy in the Senate and beyond for his nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense and top counterterrorism adviser John Brennan as the next director of the CIA. The President urged the Senate “to confirm them as soon as possible so we can keep our nation secure and the American people safe.” The selection of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense has been significantly more controversial than that of John Brennan, a man who is associated with several of the nation’s troubling and controversial counterterrorism policies, and who has repeatedly provided legal justification for the use of torture on suspects, deeming it “an absolutely vital tool.”

While a handful of human rights organizations and advocacy groups have objected to Brennan’s nomination, the selection has failed to result in widespread dissent among many Americans who instead have shown significantly more concern about Hagel’s nomination.

One wonders why Brennan’s nomination has been markedly less contentious. Glenn Greenwald, a columnist for The Guardian and author of “With Liberty and Justice for Some” suggests that Americans are turning a blind eye to the nation’s questionable counterterrorism policies that have resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians across the globe: “Following Obama's lead, the country has decided to ignore the fact that it committed grievous crimes as part of the ‘War on Terror.’ Obama's Orwellian decree that we must ’look forward, not backward‘ has convinced huge numbers of citizens to sweep this all under the rug and pretend it never happened. That is what explains how Brennan went from radioactive and unconfirmable in 2008 to uncontroversial in 2013.” He adds that “by denying accountability for acts like torture of CIA detainees, President Obama helps remove them from the realm of unspeakable taboo.”

Despite hopes that Obama’s reelection would result in a notable change of course, Steve Clemons, a foreign policy expert at the New America Foundation insists that “we still live with the legacy of the world that Dick Cheney and George Bush built — one that is not internationally sanctioned. One of the ways Obama and Brennan can restore America’s global leverage is to help lay out a blueprint for a new global social contract for a world with wars like those of today.” Given the growing atmosphere of tolerance toward America’s utilization of 'enhanced interrogation tactics', fewer Americans have expressed outrage to Brennan’s nomination.

The grassroots political activist group CREDO, on the other hand, has voiced concern regarding Brennan. The organization’s political director, Becky Bond, expressed disapproval of the nomination, saying that “despite the virtual silence on both sides of the aisle when it comes to secret killings and extraordinary rendition, it’s still wrong now. What kind of message does it send to the rest of the world if the United States, a leading democracy, confirms ‘assassination czar’ John Brennan to head the CIA?”

View CREDO’s petition here.

The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing on February 7th for Brennan, who will be facing tough questions regarding the use of drones and harsh interrogation methods, but is nonetheless expected to be confirmed despite protests from some liberal groups and civil libertarians.

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