CODEPINK Press Conference: Jesselyn Radach Speaks Out Against John Brennan

Posted by CODEPINK Staff

CODEPINK held a press conference on February 4th featuring ex-military, human rights and faith-based representatives warning against John Brennan's nomination as Director of the CIA.

Jesselyn Radack, attorney, former ethics advisor to the Department of Justice and current National Security & Human Rights Director at the Government Accountability Project made an excellent legal case against John Brennan's nomination as Director of the CIA.

Ms. Radack came to prominence as a whistleblower after she disclosed that the FBI committed at ethics violation in their interrogation of John Walker Lindh (the "American Taliban", captured during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan) without an attorney present and that the Department of Justice also attempted to suppress that information.

"The Government Accountability Project supports human and civil rights and, as such, stands against anyone who seeks to violate those rights or suppress rights of individuals to speak out about any such abuses.  

John Brennan is responsible for the biggest atrocities of two different administrations.  He was considered for the same position – CIA Director – in 2009, but eventually withdrew his name from consideration following uproar over his support of the use of torture after 9/11.  The fact that there is significantly less controversy surrounding Brennan’s nomination this time around suggests that the public – and Congress – have been quick to forget the atrocities that have occurred over the past decade.  If anything, Brennan’s record has only gotten worse over the past few years.

To begin with, the passage of four years since Brennan was first considered for the position does not change the fact that he played an extremely troubling role in the Bush administration’s torture policies.
Brennan served as the CIA’s Deputy Executive Director from 2001 until 2003.  Many of his colleagues say – and email traffic shows – he was well aware of the torture techniques used by the agency at that time.   

If we have truly accounted for our past, then at the very least, an individual who either approved of the torture – or even tacitly condoned the torture – is certainly not someone that we should allow to now lead the agency.  Meanwhile, my client, John Kiriakou, is the only CIA officer to go to jail in connection with the torture program, and he blew the whistle on it.  In fact, I am convinced that if John had actually tortured someone, he would not be going to jail.

Brennan’s participation in questionable intelligence activities has only expanded since his consideration in 2009.  The latest wave of criticism surrounds Brennan’s involvement in the drone program, in which individuals suspected of terrorism – including US citizens – are targeted and killed abroad without any legal process whatsoever.  As President Obama’s counterterrorism advisor, Brennan has been called the architect of the drone program and is the one who recommends targets to the President.  Brennan has publicly defended the drone attacks and made misleading statements regarding the number of individuals and civilians killed.  Americans are still largely in the dark in terms of how decisions regarding the drone program are made and who is involved.  Even members of Congress have been stonewalled from learning the President’s justifications for his targeted killings.  Someone so deeply involved in a program that condones the extrajudicial killings of Americans is not someone we should allow to lead the CIA, which by the way, was instrumental in carrying out torture.

The bottom line is that Brennan’s career has been inextricably intertwined with President Obama’s kill list and the Bush administration’s torture and extraordinary rendition policies.  From the beginning of his first term, President Obama has said that his goal is to look forward and not backward.  But to allow Brennan to lead the CIA is clearly a huge step backward and sends the wrong message to both Americans and our friends abroad.  Brennan’s nomination says that we have already forgotten our recent past.  It says that we have no remorse for what has transpired and the illegal actions we have taken.  And it underscores the fact that we have promoted a culture of impunity and, rather than prosecuting or punishing the architects of US wrongdoing, we have instead rewarded them with even greater amounts of power.  

The unfortunate reality is that the United States will likely face terrorist threats in the foreseeable future.  These threats will continue to challenge our morality and lead some to believe that the government is entitled – in the name of national security – to infringe upon human rights and act outside the rule of law.  

The individual chosen to lead the CIA should be able to promise us that, regardless of how serious the threat of terrorism is in the future, we will not allow fear to shirk our commitment to human rights or our responsibility to act within the confines of US and international law.  The next CIA director should be able not only to acknowledge our past mistakes, but to also confidently say that he or she would have refused to sit idly by as such atrocities occurred.  And the individual chosen to lead the CIA should be able to declare with certainty that such illegalities would never have happened under his or her leadership.  John Brennan is no such individual.  The man who abrogated to himself the ability to play prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner of anyone on the planet should not be the head of the Central Intelligence Agency."

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