In ‘Undaunted,’ Former CIA Chief John Brennan Says The Danger To U.S. Is At House : NPR


Former CIA Director John Brennan testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Might 23, 2017, earlier than the Home Intelligence Committee Russia Investigation Activity Pressure.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

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Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Former CIA Director John Brennan testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Might 23, 2017, earlier than the Home Intelligence Committee Russia Investigation Activity Pressure.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

John Brennan stepped down as CIA director the very second Donald Trump was being sworn-in as president – midday on Jan. 20, 2017.

The following day, Trump visited CIA headquarters and spoke in regards to the dimension of his inauguration crowd whereas standing in entrance of the company’s Memorial Wall, that includes a star for every CIA worker killed within the line of responsibility.

Undaunted: My Battle Towards America’s Enemies, At House and Overseas, by John O. Brennan

Celadon Books

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Celadon Books

“I could not take it anymore. I felt bodily nauseated watching and listening to him,” Brennan writes in his new memoir Undaunted: My Battle Towards America’s Enemies, At House And Overseas. Brennan left house for the health club to blow off steam, solely to see Trump’s remarks repeated on the tv screens as he rode a stationary bike.

At some point out of workplace, and whereas nonetheless pedaling on the health club, Brennan texted a former aide with a public assertion: “Former Director Brennan is deeply saddened and angered at Donald Trump’s despicable show of self-aggrandizement in entrance of CIA’s Memorial Wall of company heroes. He ought to be ashamed of himself.”

Since then, Brennan has assailed Trump continuous on Twitter, cable TV, in newspaper op-eds and now in his e-book.

Gone are the times when nationwide safety chiefs quietly retired and maybe wrote a discreet e-book a number of years later recounting their years of service in understated tones. Nationwide safety leaders, together with former CIA administrators, are as outspoken as anybody within the post-9/11 period, and Brennan is probably the most outspoken of all.

In his personal phrases, Brennan is a hot-tempered, working-class, Irish-Catholic child from New Jersey. He by no means runs in need of vitriol, and whereas Trump is the primary goal, there are lots of extra. Brennan additionally takes swipes at his successor as CIA chief, Mike Pompeo, whom he describes as “placing loyalty to Donald Trump above dedication to nation.”

Brennan additionally notes that Pompeo did not invite him to the CIA Christmas social gathering.

Insider accounts

So Brennan dishes the gossip and affords sturdy, detailed, insider accounts of essential occasions, like how al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden was tracked down and the way drone strikes have been carried out.

There are private revelations: Earlier than becoming a member of the CIA, he wore a diamond earring, smoked his share of cannabis in Cairo and voted for the Communist Celebration candidate for president, Gus Corridor, in 1976. He fancied himself a personality out of Simple Rider (Jack Nicholson? Peter Fonda? Dennis Hopper?) and rode his Yamaha motorbike to work in his early days on the company.

That is all great things. But one thing essential is lacking right here — the large image.

Brennan spent practically 30 years on the company, from entry-level trainee to director. There could also be no different American who held extra high-level nationwide safety positions throughout a very powerful occasions of the previous twenty years — the 9/11 assaults, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Arab Spring, the rise of ISIS, and the Russia interference within the 2016 election.

But Brennan, who spent his early years as an intelligence analyst, offers comparatively little evaluation of how these dramas have reshaped U.S. nationwide safety and what lies forward.

What’s his takeaway from the lengthy wars within the Center East, the area he studied most intently? How ought to Washington deal with the continued provocations of Russian chief Vladimir Putin? How has the U.S. ready to cope with a rising China?

These elementary questions go unaddressed as Brennan opts for a small-bore strategy.

CIA interrogations

He does sort out robust points just like the CIA’s abusive therapy of al-Qaida suspects.

“I vividly keep in mind studying the sordid particulars for the primary time in August 2002, once I learn in regards to the interrogation and waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah,” writes Brennan, the company’s deputy government director on the time.

“The outline of the interrogation session was graphic and abdomen turning,” he provides. “It recounted the repeated waterboarding functions and the way Abu Zubaydah continuously gagged and threw up.”

Abu Zubaydah was the primary essential terror suspect detained after the 9/11 assaults, and was finally waterboarded 83 occasions. He is held at Guantanamo Bay and has but to go on trial.

Brennan stated after studying that first report, he walked to the CIA car parking zone and lit up a cigarette. “My God,” he thought, “what are we doing?”

He raised this with then CIA Director George Tenant that night, however did not press the problem. Brennan says he was indirectly concerned within the interrogation program, however chastises himself for not doing extra to cease it.

He would not sound keen on CIA Director Gina Haspel. He mentions that he handed Haspel over for a prime job when he was director, and says he was “very disillusioned” when she did not reply to his letter this previous January in search of entry to CIA data when writing his e-book.

Haspel, who has maintained an especially low profile, even by CIA requirements, is among the few senior nationwide safety figures who has remained in place for your entire Trump administration.

However Brennan would not say whether or not Haspel has been in a position to do her job successfully whereas coping with a president who has repeatedly ignored or rejected intelligence the company has introduced to him about Russia.

Brennan is a fan of Joe Biden: “I had a really shut relationship with him once I served on the White Home [as the counterrorism advisor] and as director of the CIA,” Brennan writes. “His huge expertise on nationwide safety points … made him one of the vital energetic individuals within the numerous conferences we attended collectively.”

Brennan is at his finest when he shares his entry to locations like Saudi Arabia, the place he was stationed twice and developed relationships with key figures within the authorities and the royal household. He confidently assesses that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, generally known as MBS, was behind the killing of Washington Publish journalist and Saudi nationwide Jamal Kashoggi on the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2018:

“Primarily based on every part I’ve discovered over the previous forty years about Saudi intelligence and safety companies and the way in which the Saudi authorities operates, I’m sure that such an audacious operation occurring inside a Saudi diplomatic mission in opposition to a high-profile journalist working for a U.S. newspaper would have required the direct authorization of Saudi Arabia’s prime management. Nothing in King Salman’s background suggests he would have approved the homicide; MBS’s background does.”

However too usually he returns to inside-the-Beltway political battles and his now repetitive assaults on Trump. As he concludes:

“I sorely want that I had by no means felt compelled to talk out as vociferously as I’ve in opposition to a sitting president of the US. It has given me no pleasure to take action. However, so long as Mr. Trump continues to trample the tenets of our democracy, deceive the American individuals, denigrate the workplace of the presidency, endanger our nationwide safety, and sully our repute all over the world, I can’t relent in my criticism of him.”

That is the bottom he covers commonly in his tweets.

Greg Myre is an NPR nationwide safety correspondent. Comply with him @gregmyre1.


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