CIA nominee pressed on U.S. drone policy, waterboarding

Thu Feb 7, 2013 10:49pm EST
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By Patricia Zengerle and Tabassum Zakaria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - John Brennan, President Barack Obama's nominee for CIA director, said on Thursday he did not try to stop waterboarding, an interrogation technique that some consider torture, as he faced tough congressional questioning on that issue, security leaks and the use of drones to kill U.S. terrorism suspects.

Lawmakers pressed Brennan on controversial counterterrorism tactics employed while he was a CIA official under former President George W. Bush, and others whose use he helps oversee in his current role as chief counterterrorism adviser to Obama.

The issue of the now-banned harsh interrogation techniques derailed Brennan's consideration for CIA director four years ago, and he met it head-on at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

"I did not take steps to stop the CIA's use of those techniques. I was not in the chain of command of that program," Brennan said. "I had expressed my personal objections and views to some agency colleagues" about waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning, nudity and other techniques, he said.

"But I did not try to stop it, because it was something that was being done in a different part of the agency under the authority of others, and it was something that was directed by the administration at the time," he said.


In a bid to smooth congressional concerns about counterterrorism activities under his watch, Obama on Wednesday ordered the Justice Department to give House and Senate intelligence committees access to a classified legal opinion on killing U.S. terrorism suspects with drone strikes.

Brennan, 57, has been central in overseeing U.S. government policy on the use of the armed, unmanned aircraft in counterterrorism operations in the Obama administration.   Continued...

Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on his nomination to be the Director of the CIA, on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 7, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed