Obama chooses ex-CIA chief as W.House adviser

John Brennan, former CIA chief, has the "experience, vision and integrity" to advance America's security, Obama said.

Obama chooses ex-CIA chief as W.House adviser

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama on Friday chose an outspoken and controversial CIA veteran as his top counterterrorism adviser, a move that could raise eyebrows but assures frank dialogue in the White House.

John Brennan, who spent 25 years in the U.S. clandestine service, has the "experience, vision and integrity" to advance America's security, Obama said.

Since leaving government in 2005, Brennan's writings have attracted criticism, including his suggestions the next president establish direct dialogue with Iran and encourage greater assimilation of Iranian-backed Hezbollah into Lebanon's political system.

But national security experts say Brennan will be a good addition to Obama's inner circle, in part because of his candor as well as his global experience.

"With somebody like John Brennan, obviously there'll be a debate and that's the role of a national security adviser," said one former Clinton national security official. "This will demonstrate that a President Obama will get a much broader range of views."

Six weeks ago, Brennan withdrew his name from consideration as a possible candidate to run the Central Intelligence Agency amid criticism he was too closely tied to CIA policies that allowed harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects.

As a White House adviser to Obama, Brennan -- who was chief of staff to former CIA chief George Tenet -- will not need Senate confirmation as he would if nominated to run the CIA.

Brennan, who set up and ran the National Counterterrorism Center after the Sept. 11 attacks, has denied any involvement in the decision-making process for any of the controversial policies.

"It has been immaterial to the critics that I have been a strong opponent of many of the policies of the Bush administration such as the preemptive war in Iraq and and coercive interrogation tactics, to include waterboarding," Brennan said in a Nov. 25 letter to Obama taking his name out of the running for the CIA post.

"Indeed, my criticism of these policies within government circles was the reason why I was twice considered for more senior-level positions in the current administration only to be rebuffed by the White House," he wrote.

After a CIA career that ranged from chief of station in the Middle East to giving the president his daily intelligence briefing, Brennan founded an intelligence consulting firm in the private sector.

His views on Iran likely sparked a question to Obama on Friday about whether his appointment meant the president-elect was softening his stance on Iran.

"Iran is a genuine threat to U.S. national security. But I have also said that we should be willing to initiate diplomacy as a mechanism to achieve our national security goals," Obama said. "My national security team, I think, is reflective of that practical, pragmatic approach to foreign policy."

Reuters
Last Mod: 11 Ocak 2009, 11:39
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