Posted by on February 07, 2013 in Blog

C-SPAN is currently streaming the Senate nomination hearing for John Brennan’s appointment as the new head of the CIA.

Brennan, a controversial national security figure who currently serves as a counterterrorism advisor to the Obama administration, is widely credited as the architect of the President’s current global war strategy. As such, Brennan is intimately linked with a number of the Obama administration’s most controversial policies, particularly the use of unmanned aerial drones for targeted assassination campaigns.

Brennan is also connected to the Bush administration’s policies of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (read: torture) and the extraordinary rendition of terror suspects to foreign countries. These connections caused Brennan to withdraw himself from his 2008 nomination for the same position, largely because of his perceived support for torture.

This time around, the barriers to Brennan’s nomination appear to be much lower. Brennan has been outspoken in his criticism of Bush-era torture techniques, and despite protests from civil libertarians and critics of the current war on terror, most Senators from both sides of the aisle seem quite comfortable with the nominee this time around.

Nevertheless, the hearing is sure to be an interesting look at the current priorities – and blind spots – of congressional concern about our national security and intelligence strategy. Here are issues to look out for today:

Torture: Brennan’s 2008 nominating was sunk primarily because of his supposed affiliation with Bush-era interrogation techniques, about which he was largely silent during his tenure at the CIA. Democrats are likely to push Brennan to more explicitly state his views on “enhanced interrogation techniques,” though it’s unclear if many Senators will be particularly vocal in their condemnation of torture.

Drones: President Obama’s drone policy has quickly become one of the most controversial aspects of his administration’s foreign policy approach. We’ve written extensively about the many troubling aspects of the drone program, but with the timely release of the Justice Department’s memo detailing the legal “justification” for assassinating U.S. citizens without judicial oversight, there will doubtless be a renewed focus on Brennan’s complicity and designing, implementing, and overseeing much of the drone strategy in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and beyond.

NYPD Racial Profiling: Revelations about the costly, unconstitutional, and counterproductive racial profiling the CIA engaged in with the New York City Police Department (NYPD) are unlikely to be an issue during the hearing, but questions should be posed as whether or not the CIA under Brennan will aid or participate in domestic spying operations like that of the NYPD’s.  

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