In 2009, President Obama tried to appoint John Brennan director of the CIA. When it was discovered that as a CIA official Brennan had endorsed the practice of torture, rendition and immunity for telecoms for illegal wiretapping, he withdrew his name from consideration.
At the time Brennan withdrew his name, he wrote a bitter letter which blamed strong criticism of his previous service with the CIA. Although Obama and liberals were harshly critical of the activities Brennan defended under Bush, apparently they were no barrier to proposing him as CIA director. As Obama noted when he refused to take any legal action against any Bush era crimes, he wanted to look forward rather than backward. Looking forward, means appointing people who defended those crimes.
Facing difficulty in appointing Brennan as CIA director, Obama appointed him to a post that did not require confirmation. Obama appointed Brennan as top counter-terrorism adviser. Brennan's official title is Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and Assistant to the President. In this position he was able to influence the direction of the CIA and the direction of the war on terror. He has been a staunch defender of the drone program.
In June 2011 Brennan maintained that because of the exceptional precision of the drone strikes there had not been a single confirmed collateral death. Brennan also maintained about the drone war in Yemen that “contrary to conventional wisdom, we see little evidence that [drone strikes] are generating widespread anti-American sentiment or recruits for AQAP. In fact, we see the opposite: Our Yemeni partners are more eager to work with us.” About this, Yemen expert Gregory Johnsen wrote in The New York Times: “Brennan’s assertion was either shockingly naive or deliberately misleading. Testimonies from Qaeda fighters and interviews I and local journalists have conducted across Yemen attest to the centrality of civilian casualties in explaining Al Qaeda’s rapid growth there. The United States is killing women, children and members of key tribes.” Nevertheless, Brennan's remarks can be endlessly repeated to manufacture consent for the drone program.
After the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, Brennan said that Bin Laden engaged in a firefight with Navy SEALs, and that he had used his wife as a shield. Neither was true. While praising the precision of drone strikes Brennan, also urged their extension to signature strikes based not on targeting individuals classified as terrorists but on behavior that suggested terrorist activity. As a result, people have been targeted while gathering wood or salvaging scrap metal.
You would think that even to put forth Brennan's name would immediately see American liberals up in arms. However, that support for extremist policies should disqualify anyone for a top position, now seems outdated. As Glenn Greenwald put it: "I actively opposed Brennan's CIA nomination in 2008, I can't quite muster the energy or commitment to do so now. Indeed, the very idea that someone should be disqualified from service in the Obama administration because of involvement in and support for extremist Bush terrorism polices seems quaint and obsolete, given the great continuity between Bush and Obama on these issues."
At least the ACLU has taken a stand on the issue, saying that the Senate should not proceed with Brennan's nomination "until it assesses the legality of his actions in past leadership positions in the CIA during the early years of theadministration and in his current role in the ongoing targeted killing program." I predict this is unlikely to happen!