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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Americans will trust "their own intelligence community" if and when its members behave lawfully, are fired when failing to do so, and when tv networks stop hiring unlawful officials as "national security analysts." John Brennan while CIA chief illegally hacked US Senate computers, used fake identity, and lied about it, per CIA IG-“Obama Should Fire John Brennan,” Washington Post, 7/31/2014, ”The C.I.A.’s Reckless Breach of Trust,” NY Times Editorial Board, 7/31/2014

“It’s time for Obama to take that responsibility head-on and start to restore in U.S. intelligence agencies some semblance of responsibility to the Constitution and the public. 

7/31/2014, Obama should fire John Brennan, Washington Post, James Downie, Digital Opinions Editor 

In March, at the Council on Foreign Relations, CIA Director John Brennan was asked by NBC’s Andrea Mitchell whether the CIA had illegally accessed Senate Intelligence Committee staff computers “to thwart an investigation by the committee into” the agency’s past interrogation techniques. The accusation had been made earlier that day by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who said the CIA had “violated the separation-of-powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution.” Brennan answered: 

As far as the allegations of, you know, CIA hacking into, you know, Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth. I mean, we wouldn’t do that. I mean, that’s — that’s just beyond the — you know, the scope of reason in terms of what we would do. {…} 

And, you know, when the facts come out on this, I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous sort of spying and monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong.” (You can see the video of Brennan’s answer here.) 
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Now we know that the truth was far different. The Post’s Greg Miller reports:… 

Five [CIA] agency employees–two lawyers and three computer specialists--surreptitiously searched Senate Intelligence Committee files and reviewed some committee staff members’ e-mail on computers that were supposed to be exclusively for congressional investigators, according to a summary of the CIA inspector general’s report, released Thursday. 

CIA Director John O. Brennan has apologized to leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee [Feinstein and Chambliss] after an agency investigation determined that its employees improperly searched computers used by committee staff to review classified files on interrogations of prisoners. {…} 

A statement released by the CIA on Tuesday acknowledged that agency employees had searched areas of that computer network that were supposed to be accessible only to committee investigators. Agency employees were attempting to discover how congressional aides had obtained a secret CIA internal report on the interrogation program. 

“Some employees acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding reached” between the CIA and lawmakers in 2009, when the committee investigation was launched, according to the agency statement, which cited a review by the CIA’s inspector general. The CIA statement was first reported by McClatchy. 

That committee’s investigation is said to be sharply critical of the CIA, finding that it exaggerated the effectiveness of harsh interrogation measures and repeatedly misled members of Congress and the executive branch. The findings are expected to be released publicly within weeks. 

After briefing committee leaders, Brennan “apologized to them [Feinstein and Chambliss] for such actions by CIA officers as described in the [inspector general] report,” the agency statement said. Brennan also ordered the creation of an internal personnel board, led by former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), to review the agency employees’ conduct and determine “potential disciplinary measures.”” 

An apology and an internal review board might suffice if this were Brennan or intelligence leaders’ first offense, but the track record is far from spotless. In 2011, Brennan claimed that dozens of U.S. drone strikes on overseas targets had not killed a single civilian. 

This remarkable success rate was not only disputed at the time by news reports — even supporters of the drone program called it “absurd” — but as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the New York Times both reported later, President Obama received reports from the very beginning of his presidency about drone strikes killing numerous civilians. As Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser at the time, Brennan would have received these reports as well, so either Brennan knew that his claim was a lie, or he is secretly deaf. 

Similarly, Brennan denied snooping on Senate computers six weeks after Feinstein first made the accusation to the CIA in private, which means either that he was lying, or he had ignored a serious charge against his agency for six weeks, then spouted off about it without any real knowledge — hardly the behavior expected of an agency director. 

And last year, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied under oath to Congress when he told Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and the Senate Intelligence Committee that the National Security Agency did not collect any kind of data on millions of Americans, a claim later disproved by documents leaked by former NSA employee Edward Snowden. Despite Clapper receiving criticism from both sides of the aisle, the damage to Clapper’s and the White House’s credibility on intelligence and civil liberties issues and, well, the fact that lying to Congress is a crime (though one that’s difficult to prosecute), Obama has not disciplined Clapper in any way. 

Sadly, it’s unlikely that this latest incident will encourage Obama to finally induce some accountability in the intelligence community: White House press secretary Josh Earnest called the CIA’s illegal activities mere “misunderstandings.” But as Brennan said when he denied the allegations, “if I did something wrong…he is the one who can ask me to stay or to go.” 

It’s time for Obama to take that responsibility head-on and start to restore in U.S. intelligence agencies some semblance of responsibility to the Constitution and the public.
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“The Central Intelligence Agency admitted that it did, indeed, use a fake online identity to break into the Senate’s computers….The C.I.A. needs far more than a few quiet personnel changes, however. Its very core, and basic culture, needs a thorough overhaul." 

7/31/2014, The C.I.A.’s Reckless Breach of Trust,” NY Times Editorial Board 

In March, John Brennan, the C.I.A. director, was indignant when Senator Dianne Feinstein charged that the agency had broken into computers used by staff investigators from the Senate Intelligence Committee, which she leads. “As far as the allegations of C.I.A. hacking into Senate computers,” he said, “nothing could be further from the truth. I mean, we wouldn’t do that. I mean, that’s just beyond the scope of reason.” 

But reason seems to have little to do with the C.I.A.’s operations, as Mr. Brennan apparently discovered far too late. On Thursday, the Central Intelligence Agency admitted that it did, indeed, use a fake online identity to break into the Senate’s computers, where documents connected to a secret report on the agency’s detention and torture program were being stored. Mr. Brennan apologized privately to Ms. Feinstein and to Senator Saxby Chambliss, the vice chairman of the intelligence committee, and promised to set up an accountability board to determine who did the hacking and whether and how they should be punished. 

The accountability and the apologies, however, will have to go much further. It’s not just two senators that the C.I.A. has offended by this shocking action. It is all of Congress and, by extension, the American public, which is paying for an intelligence agency that does not seem to understand the most fundamental concept of separation of powers. That concept means that Congress is supposed to oversee the intelligence community and rein in its excesses. It cannot possibly do so effectively if it is being spied on by the spy agency, which is supposed to be directing its efforts against foreign terrorists and other threats to national security. 

The committee has been working since 2009 on a comprehensive history of the agency’s antiterror program during the George W. Bush administration, which involved illegal rendition to other countries, detention, and torture of suspects, all producing little useful intelligence. It has been frustrated at many points by stonewalling from the agency, which provided misleading information, hid important facts inside a blizzard of excess documents, and forced endless delays in the declassification process. The 6,300-page report still has not been made public, though parts of it may be released later this month, and it is expected to undercut the Bush administration’s claims that its actions were both legal and effective. 

Late last year [2013], the agency suspected that Senate investigators had obtained an internal C.I.A. review of the torture program. Senate officials said the review was in a database they were allowed to see, but realized that the C.I.A. had broken into a private Senate computer server and found the review. A summary of an agency inspector general’s report, released Thursday, said C.I.A. hackers even read the emails of Senate staffers. Then they exhibited a “lack of candor” to agency investigators. 

In an extraordinary speech on the Senate floor in March, Ms. Feinstein accused the agency of having “undermined the constitutional framework essential to effective congressional oversight of intelligence activities or any other government function.” The institutional affront even drew Republican criticism. If the charge was true, said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, “heads should roll, and people should go to jail.” 

One of those heads may need to be Mr. Brennan’s. If he knew about the break-in, then he blatantly lied. If he did not, then apparently he was unaware of the lawless culture that has festered within the C.I.A. since the moment it was encouraged by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to torture suspects and then lie about it. That recklessness extended to the point where agency officials thought nothing of burglarizing their own overseer.

Senator Mark Udall of Colorado said the action was illegal and required the resignation of Mr. Brennan. 

The C.I.A. needs far more than a few quiet personnel changes, however. Its very core, and basic culture, needs a thorough overhaul.” 

A version of this editorial appears in print on August 1, 2014, on page A22 of the New York edition with the headline: The C.I.A.’s Reckless Breach of Trust.”
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Added: NBC News hires Brennan: 

2/2/18, “Ex-CIA Chief John Brennan Signs as MSNBC/NBC Contributor,” The Wrap, Jon Levine 

“Former CIA director John Brennan has become the latest member of the NBC News and MSNBC family, officially signing with the network as a contributor. 

Brennan will serve as a senior national security and intelligence analyst for the networks, the company announced Thursday, adding that his first official appearance will come on this Sunday’s “Meet the Press” with Chuck Todd. 

Another person familiar with the matter said he would take the stage at “Morning Joe” on Monday.”
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Second source, NBC hires Brennan: 

2/6/18, “The Spies Who Came in to the TV Studio,” Politico, Jack Shafer 

“Former CIA Director John Brennan (2013-17) is the latest superspook to be reborn as a TV newsie. He just cashed in at NBC News as a “senior national security and intelligence analyst” and served his first expert views on last Sunday’s edition of Meet the Press. The Brennan acquisition seeks to elevate NBC to spook parity with CNN, which employs former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director Michael Hayden in a similar capacity.”…






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