No regrets advising against Bin Laden raid, says Brennan
Published 08/02/2013 | 04:00
US PRESIDENT Barack Obama's nominee to be the new CIA chief has said he does not regret advising against a strike targeting Osama bin Laden in 1998, a few months before the bombings of two US embassies in Africa.
Irish American John Brennan said that the attack could have killed other people as well as Bin Laden, and that the chances of success were minimal.
He also told the Senate Intelligence Committee the information supporting the attack was "not well grounded".
He said he was among numerous intelligence officials who urged against such an attack. Mr Brennan was the CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia at the time of the embassy bombings. Three years later, on September 11 2001, Bin Laden launched the deadliest terrorist attacks in US history.
Speaking at his confirmation hearing yesterday, Mr Brennan pledged to bring openness to the CIA and repair a "trust deficit" with congressional politicians.
He acknowledged that critics have accused the White House of failing to be as forthcoming with Congress and the public on national security issues as Barack Obama promised to be as President.
Mr Brennan said he would be candid and blunt, and give politicians, in his words, "straight answers from me, maybe not always ones you will like".
Committee chairman Dianne Feinstein asked him to act on that pledge by making the top-secret memo on White House drone policy available to her staffers as well as to committee members.
The hearing was interrupted repeatedly by protests – once before it began and then several times before Mr Brennan had completed his brief statement.
At one point, Democrat Ms Feinstein ordered the proceedings to be halted and the room cleared so those re-entering could be screened to block obvious protesters.
The shouted protests centred on CIA drone strikes, which have killed three American citizens and an unknown number of foreigners overseas.
It was a topic very much on the mind of the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who will eventually vote on Mr Brennan's CIA appointment.
The CIA's drone strikes primarily focus on al Qa'ida and Taliban targets in the tribal regions of Pakistan, while the military has launched strikers against al Qa'ida targets in Yemen and Somalia.
The agency also carried out strikes in Yemen, where three American citizens with al Qa'ida connections have been killed: Anwar al-Awlaki, his 16-year-old son and Samir Kahn.
Mr Brennan said the US employs drone strikes only as a deterrent against imminent terrorist threats, not as punishment for previous attacks.
He declined several times to say whether waterboarding is torture, but he did say it is "something that is reprehensible and should never be done again".