The Washington Independent notes that White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan refused to say whether he knew about the controversial post 9-11 domestic surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency. In one way, it doesn't really matter, at least to President Obama, who presumably knows the answer and was comfortable enough to install Brennan as his chief homeland security adviser. But the public has a right to know the background of the guy advising the president on such sensitive stuff, and there is an interesting disparity in the level of culpability that we tend to ascribe to former Bush administration officials. (Brennan will say that he was never a Bush guy... always a CIA guy...just like when he was a CIA briefer for Bill Clinton.) So, here's the answer, as best as I can tell: senior intelligence officials with direct knowledge of Brennan's role confirm that, indeed, as head of the National Counterterrorism Center (and of its earlier incarnation, called TTIC), he was privy to both the NSA's "take" -- the raw product -- and the mechanisms used to collect it. The NCTC cross-checked NSA information with everything else collected by the intelligence community and prepared threat assessments.
Before TTIC and NCTC, when Brennan was deputy executive director of the CIA, he was, in essence, the senior manager for analysis and production. He did not plan or supervise operations; he played no role in authorizing or conducting the "enhanced interrogations" that were tantamount to torture. But his job was to manage the analytic process, one aspect of which was to determine the significance of the information gleaned from those sessions. I don't find it surprising -- indeed, it would have been malpractice -- for CIA not to have played a role in selecting the targets for the NSA's domestic collection, so Brennan, by default, participated.
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