Friday, January 9, 2009

OBAMA NAMES ANOTHER CONFLICT OF INTEREST. . . AND ONE WHO BELIEVES IN TORTURE

This is also another example of the increasing trend of presidents to circumvent the Constitution on appointments requiring Senate confirmation by appointing personal aides not subject to approval.

Washington Post - Barack Obama has picked John O. Brennan as his top adviser on counterterrorism, a role that will give the CIA veteran a powerful voice on the government's use of security contractors and on other sensitive issues in which he recently has played a private-sector role. This Story

By appointing Brennan to a senior White House position not subject to Senate approval, Obama is also making him an influential adviser on the Middle East and on Iran, a topic on which Brennan has called for a sharp break with past U.S. policy.

The president-elect's decision comes only six weeks after Brennan was forced to pull out of contention for the directorship of the CIA because of fears that his statements supporting some controversial interrogation techniques would have complicated his confirmation.

The firm Brennan heads, the Analysis Corp., and its corporate parent have earned millions of dollars over the past decade assisting several federal agencies and private firms on counterterrorism. Those oil and telecommunications firms have worked in countries beset by violence, including Mozambique, Liberia, Colombia and Pakistan -- all of which have been topics of intense policy debate in Washington.

The parent corporation, London-based Global Strategies, has been a target of critical news accounts about harsh actions by its hired soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama has criticized the actions of similar firms, such as Blackwater Worldwide, and co-sponsored legislation to ensure that such firms are subject to U.S. laws even when operating overseas. ad_icon

Brennan also has attracted personal criticism from human rights experts for defending the CIA's long-standing practice of forced renditions, or transfers, of terrorism suspects for interrogations, a position that forced the withdrawal in late November of his candidacy to head the CIA.

While Brennan has said he is uncomfortable about the CIA's practice of waterboarding, a simulated-drowning technique sometimes used on terrorism suspects, he has also made provocative comments about the agency's use of other interrogation methods. He told a PBS interviewer in 2006 that "we do have to take off the gloves in some areas," but without taking actions that would "forever tarnish the image of the United States abroad.". . .

His remarks and his tenure -- he was chief of staff to then-CIA Director George J. Tenet from 1999 to 2001 and director of National Counterterrorism Center from 2004 to 2005 -- provoked an open complaint against his nomination as CIA director from 200 psychologists.

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