John Brennan is the best nominee to run the Central Intelligence Agency in a generation—alas. The best of a bad lot.
Brennan will be the agency’s eighth director in the past two decades. His immediate predecessors included hapless technocrats, a hopeless congressman, gung-ho generals — and, lest we forget, Langley’s own Sir Lancelot, George Tenet. He sought the holy grail of Saddam Hussein’s secret arsenal and made the “slam dunk” case for the Iraq war: an intelligence failure ranking with Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attacks.
It’s been ages since a career CIA officer like Brennan has been chosen to lead the Agency. He did time in the overseas clandestine service, notably as a station chief in Saudi Arabia, where he went belly-to-belly with Iran’s spooks, and he served as an analyst and a top espiocrat at CIA headquarters. He has been Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser in the White House for the past four years. His resume as an American spy is long, varied, and distinguished.
His confirmation hearings, however, may be short, nasty, and brutish. In the few hours allowed him, he has some explaining to do - if Congress has the courage to ask the questions.