Posted by Brad @ 5:14 pm on November 25th 2008

Brennan Out

He will not be the director of the CIA, or any other senior intelligence post.

His pick—and the fact that he was in on the ground floor of all the worst excesses of the intelligence community as directed by Bush—spurred a modest but significant blowback from some quarters (Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Sullivan of particular note). It spurred this post by me, and I’ve been working on another.

Guess I won’t have to. Today, he publicly put in his letter of “don’t hire me”. Citing specifically the reaction from the trial balloon being floated, he notes bitterly that he had nothing to do with the issues at issue, but goes on to not wish to be a distraction.

He was by far the least confidence-aspiring and least change-oriented high-level pick Obama has floated thus far, which was pretty depressing as, for many of us, that’s precisely the area where we hope to see the biggest 180. He may well have not been personally involved in the wiretapping and torture scandals, but this is one case where people demanded that the officer in charge look like the change Obama was promising.

I take that first comment on the First Read site thoughtfully:

I don’t know anything about Mr. Brennan specifically, but it’s gonna be hard to find someone with experience who WASN’T involved at some level (or with at least the appearance of it) in the CIA torture stuff.

That’s true enough, to some extent. But the reaction to Brennan, and the transition team’s high level of responsiveness to it, may ensure that we get a real reformer in the role. The fact that Brennan went down on this issue is a very, very positive development, no other way to slice it.

Glenn Greenwald, who has been front and center on this, notes:

This is really exceptional news on multiple levels — the best political news I’ve heard since the election…

I think Obama is entitled to a lot of leeway on appointments and is entitled not to be condemned — or praised — other than for things he actually does. And while I have found some of his appointments questionable, Brennan was the only prospective appointment that, speaking only for myself, was completely unacceptable. Advocacy of Bush’s interrogation and rendition programs should exclude anyone from consideration for any important position, let alone CIA Director or Director of National Intelligence.

This is an important victory. It’s absolutely vital that these bright lines be re-established. Brennan’s being denied a top intelligence positions due to his past advocacy of these abuses is a big step towards achieving that, particularly since it was due to pressure from those who insist that these political values not be de-prioritized or ignored…

In light of his record and statements, a high-level appointment for Brennan would have signaled ambivalence and ambiguity in exactly the areas where unequivocal clarity is urgently needed.

All true.

Great news today.

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