independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Irish-American spy takes reins as new head of CIA

The Irish-American mastermind of Barack Obama's secret drone war was chosen yesterday to lead the CIA and "relentlessly" extend its controversial campaign against al-Qa'ida into the president's second term.

John Brennan, Mr Obama's counter-terrorism adviser, was nominated as the intelligence agency's next director two months after David Petraeus resigned over an extramarital affair with his biographer.

Mr Brennan has played a key role in expanding a programme of air strikes by drones on suspected terrorists in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, which has killed more than 2,000 people.

Accepting the nomination in a speech at the White House, Mr Brennan (57) whose parents were born in Ireland said: "I will make it my mission to ensure the CIA has the tools to keep our country safe."

He paid tribute to CIA successes that would never be known outside the "hallowed halls of Langley and the White House".

Mr Obama said Mr Brennan would "remain relentless" in pursuing al-Qa'ida. Praising him as a tireless public servant who obsesses about US security, he added: "I'm not sure he has slept in four years."

A career spy who served as CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia, Mr Brennan has been accused of being complicit in the agency's torture of terrorist suspects under the former president George W Bush.

Controversy over his involvement in the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" is believed to have prevented Mr Obama from nominating him to lead the CIA after his 2008 election win.

Mr Obama also confirmed his nomination of Chuck Hagel, a former Republican senator whose foreign policy stances have attracted criticism from former colleagues, as his next defence secretary.

If confirmed by the Senate, Mr Hagel (66) would be the first combat veteran of the Vietnam War, and the first veteran of enlisted rank to head the defence department. Hailing him as an "American patriot" who "bears the scars and the shrapnel of battles fought in our name", Mr Obama said: "Chuck knows war is not an abstraction."

The selection of Mr Hagel, who once condemned intimidation of US politicians by "the Jewish lobby", has been sharply criticised as an insult to Israel.

But yesterday, Mr Obama praised Mr Hagel's "willingness to speak his mind", stating that he "understands that America stands strongest when we stand with allies and with friends".

Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator said he "would be the most antagonistic secretary of defence towards the state of Israel in our nation's history". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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