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Entries in John Brennan (10)

Thursday
Mar072013

Rand Paul Ends Nearly 13-Hour Filibuster Against John Brennan

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- At 12:39 a.m. Eastern time Thursday, Sen. Rand Paul ended his filibuster blocking John Brennan's nomination to head the CIA in protest of the Obama administration’s policy that allows the potential use of drones to fight terrorism on U.S. soil.

Paul yielded the floor just shy of 13 hours.  The late Sen. Strom Thurmond holds the record for a filibuster.  The South Carolina Republican filibustered the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 for 24 hours and 18 minutes.

The most recent talking filibuster came from U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who spent some eight hours filibustering a tax bill in 2010.

As he yielded the floor, Paul told his Senate colleagues, “I would go for another 12 hours and try to break Strom Thurmond's record, but I have learned there are limits and I have to go take care of one of those right now.”

The Kentucky Republican expressed hope that the administration would address the issue of drones on Thursday and clarify that it won't target American citizens in the U.S.

The Capitol Hill drama began late Wednesday morning when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to push the chamber toward a final vote on Brennan's nomination, but was blocked when Paul took the Senate floor at 11:47 a.m. in a filibuster.  Brennan had received approval from the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday in a 12-3 vote.

It was an unusual tactic in a Senate that no longer relies on traditional filibusters, in which a single senator ties up the Senate floor by speaking for hours on end.

The Kentucky Republican declared, “I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.”

Paul continued, “That Americans could be killed in a cafe in San Francisco or in a restaurant in Houston or at their home in Bowling Green, Ky., is an abomination.  It is something that should not and cannot be tolerated in our country.”

The senator summed up his reason for the filibuster by saying, “I'm not asking any questions about the president's motives.  I don't question his motives.  I, frankly, don't think he will be killing people in restaurants tonight or in their house tonight.”

He continued, “But this is about the rule of law.  It isn't so much about him.  It isn't so much about John Brennan.  It's about having rules so that someday if we do have the misfortune of electing someone you do not trust, electing someone who might kill innocent people or who might kill people that they disagree with politically or they might kill people who they disagree with religiously or might kill people of another ethnic group, we're protected.”

Earlier in the day, Attorney General Eric Holder told a Senate panel that while the president has the legal authority to order a drone strike against an American on U.S. soil, under "extraordinary circumstances,” the government “has no intention to carry out any drone strikes in the United States.”  Holder added, “It's hard for me to imagine a situation in which that would occur.”

During his filibuster, Paul was seen munching on a candy bar, sipping water and drinking some hot tea.

As the filibuster entered its 12th hour, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared on the Senate floor and congratulated his fellow Kentuckian and said he'll oppose moving toward a vote on Brennan and that there should be more debate.  

It’s not clear if there will be enough votes to block Brennan if Democrats try to end the debate on Thursday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar062013

Brennan Confirmation Delayed by Rare Talking Filibuster

Jamie Rhodes/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With federal offices shut down due to snow and John Brennan poised to be confirmed as CIA Director, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, considered an outspoken libertarian, did plenty of speaking as he engaged in a traditional, and increasingly rare, talking filibuster on Wednesday.

In modern Washington, the threat of a filibuster has become enough to require an issue to get 60 votes of support instead of 51.

Paul didn’t have 40 votes to block Brennan's confirmation, but he wanted to make a point about the White House adviser who is seen as architect of the administration’s policy regarding unmanned drones used to kill suspected terrorists in foreign countries. A vote to make Brennan CIA Director could come as soon as Wednesday.

To Rand Paul, the Obama administration’s targeted killing program – the use of drones to bomb suspected terrorists in foreign lands – is an issue. His concern hit a new level on Monday when his office released a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder explaining that the administration feels it has the power, in an unlikely and hypothetical situation, to kill Americans on U.S. soil to avert an imminent terror attack.

"I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA," Paul declared at about 11:47 a.m. ET Wednesday. "I will speak until I can no longer speak. I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court. That Americans could be killed in a cafe in San Francisco or in a restaurant in Houston or at their home in Bowling Green, Kentucky, is an abomination. it is something that should not and cannot be tolerated in our country."

Paul said he doesn’t necessarily think President Obama will abuse the power to use domestic drones. However, he says, no president should have the power to kill Americans in the U.S. without a trial by jury.

Here is an excerpt from Paul's filibuster:

"When I asked the president, can you kill an American on American soil, it should have been an easy answer. It’s an easy question. It should have been a resounding and unequivocal, 'no.' The president’s response? He hasn’t killed anyone yet. We’re supposed to be comforted by that. The president says, I haven’t killed anyone yet. He goes on to say, and I have no intention of killing Americans. But I might. Is that enough? Are we satisfied by that? Are we so complacent with our rights that we would allow a president to say he might kill Americans? But he will judge the circumstances, he will be the sole arbiter, he will be the sole decider, he will be the executioner in chief if he sees fit. Now, some would say he would never do this. Many people give the president the — you know, they give him consideration, they say he’s a good man. I’m not arguing he’s not. What I’m arguing is that the law is there and set in place for the day when angels don’t rule government."

In recent years, a filibuster has been accepted as any time the minority party blocks something that could be passed by the majority. Senators agreed earlier this year to a series of rule changes that would cut down on the time it takes to move through these procedural roadblocks while preserving the minority’s right to object.

Paul is certainly in the minority on the issue of drones and targeted killing. An ABC News/Washington Post poll in February of 2012 found that 83 percent of Americans support the program. Paul believes that the program is so shrouded in secrecy that people don’t know enough about it. Drawing attention to that issue is a stated goal of his filibuster Wednesday.

This traditional form of filibuster, however, is doomed to fail. The human body can only go on so long. Paul promised to talk until he couldn't talk any more, but admitted, "Ultimately I will not win; there are not enough votes."

After more than three hours of talking, Paul was relieved by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. Lee, along with Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, gave Paul a break during the fourth hour of the largely symbolic debate.

The most recent talking filibuster came from U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, I-VT, who spent some eight hours filibustering a tax bill in 2010.

The record for longest talking filibuster goes to former South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond. Thurmond, who died in 2003, filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1957 for 24 hours and 18 minutes.

It is not clear if Paul’s filibuster will last that long. Fox News host Lou Dobbs tweeted just before 2 p.m. ET, that Paul would be joining him on his show, which starts at 7 p.m. ET.

Considering the bipartisan support for Brennan's nomination, there is little doubt that he will ultimately be confirmed.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

 

Tuesday
Mar052013

Brennan Inches Closer to Being Next CIA Director

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- John Brennan moved one step closer on Tuesday to being the next CIA director.

The Senate Intelligence Committee voted 12-3 to move Brennan’s nomination out of the committee Tuesday afternoon. Brennan, the current chief counterterrorism adviser to President Obama, must now face a full Senate vote for his nomination to be confirmed for his new job as head of the CIA.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has indicated that he’d like the full Senate to vote on Brennan at some point this week.

Prompting the move in the Senate Intelligence Committee, where the Brennan nomination had been held up for numerous days, was an agreement with the White House to provide the committee access to all Office of Legal Counsel opinions related to the targeted killing of Americans by drones.

“I am pleased the administration has made this information available,” Committee Chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a statement on the release of the White House information on drones to the committee. “It is important for the committee to do its work and will pave the way for the confirmation of John Brennan to be CIA director.”

Brennan still faces an uphill climb in the full Senate where some Senate Republicans, like Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Kelly Ayotte R-N.H., have vowed to hold up his nomination until the administration answers questions on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11 of last year.

“John and I are hell-bent on making sure the American people understand this debacle called Benghazi,” Graham said this weekend on CBS' Face the Nation.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb142013

John Brennan the Next Nominee Likely to Be Held Up over Benghazi?

US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- The trio of Republican senators responsible for part of the filibuster of Chuck Hagel's confirmation as defense secretary are moving on to another target in order to extract more information on Benghazi from the White House. That new target? The nomination of John Brennan to be the next CIA director.

When asked about holding up Hagel's nomination Thursday, Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said they are not satisfied with the administration's answers on Benghazi. They noted the filibuster is a Senate tradition of oversight while adding that they intend to use the same sort of leveraging in the Brennan nomination.

“It’s a time-honored practice, it’s a way for us to get information,” McCain said, “we’ve been totally stonewalled so the only leverage honestly that we have is to gauge our support for the nomination of a nominee on whether they are forthcoming with information.”
 
The senators said they intend to hold up the Brennan nomination over the much-debated talking points given to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice before the Sunday shows in the days following the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
 
“When Brennan comes forward, I want to know who changed those talking points,” Sen. Graham said. “We are going to find out who changed those talking points or die trying.”
 
The senators also said they hope the White House will be “forthcoming with the information” and that there won't be a need to hold up another nomination.
 
On Wednesday, Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky already announced he was prepared to put a "hold" on Brennan's nomination, but that he would question the administration's policy on the use of armed drones to attack U.S. citizens.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb112013

Sen. Graham Threatens to Hold Up Vote on Hagel, Brennan Nominations

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Lindsey Graham says until he knows exactly how President Obama acted immediately after the U.S consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked last Sept. 11, he will attempt to hold up confirmation votes on the White House picks for secretary of defense and CIA director.

Appearing on CBS' Face the Nation Sunday, the South Carolina Republican said, "We know nothing about what the president did on the night of Sept. 11, during a time of national crisis, and the American people need to know what their commander-in-chief did, if anything, during the eight-hour attack."

Obama tapped Chuck Hagel to become Pentagon chief and counterterrorism advisor John Brennan as the next director of the nation's top spy agency.  While both men went through contentious hearings, Hagel and Brennan are expected to be confirmed.

However, while Graham has promised not to filibuster their nominations, he seems intent on delaying the vote until the White House releases more details on the consulate assault in Libya that left four Americans dead and put the administration's credibility about its initial response to the siege into question.

Graham, a steadfast critic of the administration, told Face the Nation, "This was incredibly mismanaged. And what we know now, it seems to be a very disengaged president."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Feb102013

‘This Week’ Roundtable Debates Obama Drone Program

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., pushed for more congressional oversight of the Obama administration’s drone program, saying a legal architecture needs to be put in place on the use of drone strikes against potential terrorist targets overseas.

“I’ve looked into this, I haven’t found one public hearing on drones,” Ellison said Sunday on the This Week roundtable. “Now, we had the Brennan hearings, but, you know, Congress has an oversight responsibility here… The president has invited the conversation. He said we need a legal architecture around this thing, so why don’t we go do it?”

Ellison also questioned the legal rationale cited in a leaked Justice Department white paper that applied a wide definition to what constituted an “imminent” terrorist threat. “This is the broadest use of the term ‘imminent’ I’ve ever heard,” Ellison said.

President Obama’s pick for CIA Director John Brennan faced tough questioning at his Senate confirmation hearing last week on the Obama administration’s use of drone strikes, which have greatly increased during Obama’s time in office.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., called the hearings “very helpful,” but agreed with Ellison that there needs to be more discussion of the drone program. Cole questioned whether some of the strikes are hurting intelligence efforts by killing instead of capturing terrorist targets.

“I really do think we are losing a lot of opportunities out there to actually extract people and – and get information, and human intelligence is really much more important than taking out individual targets,” Cole said.

Republican strategist and ABC News political analyst and contributor Nicolle Wallace said former President George W. Bush would have been judged much more harshly for using the same measures.

“It’s slightly hilarious that people have all this patience for a legal architecture to be crafted after the fact,” Wallace said. “If this had been President George W. Bush’s administration revealing that this many drone attacks are going on, there would be impeachment hearings underway. So the hypocrisy sort of has Republicans steaming.”

But Wallace added that many Republicans have been pleased that President Obama has continued many of the counter-terrorism efforts of the previous administration.

“I think the actual policy and the fact that President Obama has continued almost the entire basket [and], in the case of drone killings, [has] greatly accelerated their use, has Republicans feeling pretty satisfied that the counter-terrorism policies put in place by the Bush administration, which Dick Cheney was the architect of many of them, have been continued by this president,” Wallace said.

Former Obama 2012 deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter countered that the Obama administration has tried to be transparent on the drone program, while ending the use of torture to gather intelligence.

“Mr. Brennan, the president, the administration has said that they want transparency, accountability, and a process to ensure that… everybody’s aware of what we’re doing going forward,” Cutter said.

While the debate over the drone strike program continues in Washington, ABC News chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz, who just returned from the Middle East, noted how poorly received the strikes are in countries impacted by them.

“I’ve been in all the places they’re used, in Yemen, in Pakistan, and people there do not like them,” Raddatz said. “John Brennan is able to say, ‘look, it’s very effective, and it’s certainly been effective taking out core leadership, but when you talk to people on the street, you wonder what the long-term strategy is.”

 

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr302012

Brennan Defends Drone Strikes as Pakistan and Protestor Object

C-SPAN(WASHINGTON) -- As White House counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan delivered a speech Monday defending the U.S. drone campaign against Taliban and al Qaeda militants, an audience member interrupted and delivered a minute-long speech of her own protesting the targeted killings and the death of al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki's teen son in Yemen.

"What about the hundreds of innocent people we are killing with our drone strikes in Pakistan and in Yemen and Somalia?" said the well-dressed blonde woman as Brennan tried to address the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington Monday. Before she was carried from the auditorium, she condemned Brennan for the death of Awlaki's U.S.-born son Abdulrahman in an October 2011 drone strike and said "I speak out on behalf of the Constitution...Shame on you!"

Brennan's speech defending the U.S. drone campaign, the Obama administration's first public admission that it is using drones to take down al Qaeda, comes as Pakistan delivered its strongest and most public condemnation yet of U.S. strikes, accusing the U.S. of violating Pakistani sovereignty, calling the campaign "a total contravention of international law and established norms of interstate relations."

"The government of Pakistan has consistently maintained that drone attacks are violative of its territorial integrity and sovereignty," said the statement.

In his remarks, Brennan confirmed that the U.S. "in full accordance with the law – and in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States and save American lives ... conducts targeted strikes against specific al Qaeda terrorists, sometimes using remotely piloted aircraft, often referred to publicly as drones. And I'm here today because President Obama has instructed us to be more open with the American people about these efforts."

Brennan stressed his belief that the strikes are allowed under both U.S. and international law, and also that they are ethical and "wise."

"They can be a wise choice because they dramatically reduce the danger to U.S. personnel, even eliminating the danger altogether," said Brennan. "Yet they are also a wise choice because they dramatically reduce the danger to innocent civilians."

Brennan also asserted that the U.S. holds itself to "rigorous standards...when considering and authorizing strikes."

"I know that for many people the issue of targeted strikes raised profound moral questions," said Brennan. "It forces us to confront deeply held personal beliefs and our values as a nation. If anyone in government who works in this area tells you they haven't struggled with this, then they haven't spent much time thinking about it." But until al Qaeda "fades into history," concluded Brennan, "if another nation cannot or will not take action, we will. And it is unfortunate that to save innocent lives we are sometimes obliged to take lives – the lives of terrorists who seek to murder our fellow citizens."

Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born radical cleric and leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, died in a drone strike in Yemen last September. His 16-year-old son Abdulrahman died less than three weeks later in a separate drone strike.

Pakistan's protest came after a U.S. drone strike Sunday in Waziristan.

The strike killed three suspected militants who were hiding out in an abandoned girls school, according to U.S. officials. There were no other casualties.

Drones strikes have become increasingly unpopular in Pakistan. Earlier this month, lawmakers there established a new set of guidelines for rebuilding the country's relationship with the United States. Among their first conditions was the immediate cessation of all drone strikes in Pakistani territory.

Monday's harsh condemnation is the latest in a series of tit-for-tat accusations that have soured Pakistan-U.S. relations ever since the May 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Relations hit a new low last November when a U.S. airstrike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in Solala, along the country's Afghan border. U.S. officials said the attack was a mistake, but stopped short of issuing a formal apology. In response, Pakistan closed the NATO supply route from its side of the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan, cutting off supplies desperately needed to support the Afghan mission.

Recently, there had been signs that both sides were willing to compromise. Marc Grossman, U.S. special envoy to the region, recently wrapped up a two day visit to Pakistan, during which he met with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Pakistan's foreign minister to lobby for the reopening of the route. Pakistani officials themselves say they want the route re-opened, but have set the cessation of drone strikes and a formal apology for the Solala incident as preconditions.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Apr292012

John Brennan: Al Qaeda Remains Focused on Planes

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said on “This Week” Sunday morning that the United States remains “especially vigilant” as the country marks the one year anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden. But he also cautioned that a threat remains from al Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

“On a day that marks the one year anniversary of bin Laden being brought to justice, we are especially vigilant,” Brennan said. “At this time we don’t see any active plot that is underway.”

I asked Brennan about the FBI warning this week that there are new efforts to target Western airports by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

“They have demonstrated both the intent as well as the capability to try to carry out an attack,” Brennan said. “They are continuing to try to, again, carry out an attack against U.S. persons inside of Yemen as well as against the homeland.”

Brennan also confirmed that Yemeni al Qaeda offshoot remains focused on targeting planes.

“Aviation has been a target, has been a traditional target of al Qaeda,” Brennan said. ” We need to maintain our vigilance, particularly overseas at these last points of departure.”

Brennan noted that al Qaeda’s capability has been “degraded significantly” and that bin Laden’s death has made a “tremendous difference.”

“It’s taken away the founding leader of that organization who was … a symbol of al Qaeda’s sort of murderous agenda worldwide,” Brennan said. “And so, that has had I think a profound impact on the organization.”

Brennan declined to address—what some Republicans have said this week—was the politicization of the killing of bin Laden by President Obama.

“I don’t do politics. I don’t do the campaign. I am not a Democrat or Republican. I’m a counterterrorism adviser to the president,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May032011

Chief Counterterrorism Adviser: No 'Specific Threats' on US Yet

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- There have been no "specific threats" made against America in the nearly 48 hours since an elite team of Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden, President Obama's chief counterterrorism adviser told ABC News Tuesday morning.

“We’re working very closely with Department of Homeland Security, FBI and others so that we understand here at the White House what those measures are as well as what threats might be out there but right now I think we feel pretty confident that we are at the right posture,” John Brennan said.

Brennan said it is “inconceivable” that bin Laden did not have some sort of support system inside Pakistan -- considering he was hiding about 1,000 feet away from a military academy -- and the administration is investigating if members of the Pakistani government gave him any help.

“At this time, what we’re doing is pursuing the leads and engaging with the Pakistanis and it’s too early to tell what type of support system he had,” Brennan said.

They hope to find out more about that support system in the evidence the SEALs took from the compound.

Brennan also backed up the news that the White House is considering releasing a photo of bin Laden’s corpse as early as Tuesday.

“We are looking at releasing additional information, details about the raid as well as any other types of material, possibly including photos," Brennan said.

“Any types of material related to the raid, we need to make sure that we make the right decisions.   What we don’t want to do is to compromise potential future operations by releasing certain things so we’re looking at all of this and making the right decisions,” he added.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec242010

White House Convenes 'Inter-Agency' Call on Holiday Threats

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The White House convened an inter-agency conference call Friday to review the steps taken to respond to holiday threats this season. It was one year ago that Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to explode a powdery substance aboard a Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

The president was not on the coordination call Friday, led by counterterrorism and homeland security adviser John Brennan.  On the call was Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, Director of National Intelligence Clapper, FBI Director Mueller, NCTC Director Leiter, Deputy Director of the CIA Morrell, National Security Staff traveling with the President in Hawaii, in addition to other representatives from the counterterrorism community.

In a briefing at the White House before the president departed for his Hawaiian holiday, the administration said that they do not see a specific and credible threat this holiday season.

“As far as something specific and credible, we don't see that,” Brennan said Wednesday. “There is a constant stream of reporting throughout the course of the year about al Qaeda's plans.  So sometimes we have that strategic warning.  We're not going to wait for a tactical warning.  We're going to be poised every day to respond.”

Brennan said he is “absolutely confident” that the “deficiencies” that were identified in the system after the after-action review of the Abdulmutallab incident have been addressed.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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