CIA nominee to face questions on interrogations, drones and leaks

Wed Feb 6, 2013 6:46pm EST
 
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By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's nominee to head the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, is expected to face tough questioning about leaks of sensitive information and U.S. spy activities from waterboarding to the use of drones when he appears at a Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday.

In a written submission posted on the Senate Intelligence Committee's website on Wednesday, Brennan acknowledged for the first time that he had given voluntary interviews in connection with investigations into leaks that are being conducted by federal prosecutors in Baltimore and Washington.

Brennan said the investigations related to cyber warfare against Iran and a foiled bomb plot tied to al Qaeda's Yemen-based affiliate. Brennan said his lawyer had been told by prosecutors that he was "only a witness" in both investigations.

However, leaks are only one of the major issues about which intelligence committee members plan to question Brennan, a former CIA executive under President George W. Bush, who has become the steward of Obama's drone policies.

Congressional aides said much of the questioning is expected to focus on what Brennan knew about the Bush administration's use of harsh interrogation techniques on Islamic militant suspects captured and held, sometimes in secret CIA prisons, after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Human rights activists and many U.S. politicians, including intelligence committee chairwoman Senator Dianne Feinstein and Republican Senator John McCain, have condemned some of the interrogation techniques as torture.

Democrats also are expected to question Brennan, the top White House adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security, on the Obama administration's use of armed drone aircraft to attack suspected al Qaeda militants and encampments in countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.

Despite the range of expected questions, Senate aides and political handicappers say they have not sensed a groundswell of opposition to Brennan's nomination.   Continued...

 
John Brennan, nominee for CIA Director, arrives at a meeting with Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on Capitol Hill in Washington January 31, 2013. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas