Glenn Greenwald unloads on Obama for potentially considering John Brennan for Director of the CIA or National Intelligence:

To appoint someone as CIA Director or Director of National Intelligence who was one of George Tenet's closest aides when The Dark Side of the last eight years was conceived and implemented, and who, to this day, continues to defend and support policies such as "enhanced interrogation techniques" and rendition (to say nothing of telecom immunity and warrantless eavesdropping), is to cross multiple lines that no Obama supporter should sanction. Truly turning a page on the grotesque abuses of the last eight years requires both symbolism (closing Guantanamo) and substantive policy changes (compelling adherence to the Army Field Manual, ensuring due process rights for all detainees, ending rendition, restoring safeguards on surveillance powers). Appointing John Brennan to a position of high authority would be to affirm and embrace, not repudiate, the darkest aspects of the last eight years.

I think Greenwald is right to criticize Obama on this point -- at the very least Brennan's prominence sends a mixed message. While Obama has repeatedly said he will end the practice of torture as U.S. policy, he has made few concrete explanations of how he would do so. Reports suggest he will appoint a pro-civil rights, anti-torture attorney general in Eric Holder and the anti-torture former Gen. Jim Jones as National Security Adviser. Yet, in Brennan, Obama is considering a torture apologist for the very agency where changes need to be made to end the practice forever. Reports also suggest Obama won't prosecute those who are responsible for committing torture in the past: political realities aside, there's simply no way to acknowledge the moral catastrophe of torture without holding those who were involved responsible.

At the same time, it still comes down to how Obama draws the line. I don't have a personal vendetta against Brennan, my issue is with torture itself. If Obama said explicitly that he would force the CIA to stick to the rules outlined in the Army Field Manual, if there were a very specific agenda put forth outlining exactly how this practice would be ended forever, either through legislation or executive order, I wouldn't be completely unsettled by a Brennan appointment. But we haven't seen that, we've seen a lot of broad moral declarations about torture, not so different from those the White House's current occupant has made in the past, and at the very least a mixed message through the language of his reported appointments. But while a Brennan appointment says one thing, the Holder and Jones appointments would send the opposite message. It's far from clear that Obama has capitulated on this issue.

--A. Serwer

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