On Thursday, William H. McRaven, who was the commander of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014 and oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, fired off a blistering public letter to President Trump excoriating him for revoking the clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan. In the letter, McRaven described Brennan as “a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question.”
That description of Brennan might have a difficult time comporting with the facts.
First, here’s McRaven’s screed:
Dear Mr. President:
Former CIA director John Brennan, whose security clearance you revoked on Wednesday, is one of the finest public servants I have ever known. Few Americans have done more to protect this country than John. He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don’t know him.
Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.
Like most Americans, I had hoped that when you became president, you would rise to the occasion and become the leader this great nation needs.
A good leader tries to embody the best qualities of his or her organization. A good leader sets the example for others to follow. A good leader always puts the welfare of others before himself or herself.
Your leadership, however, has shown little of these qualities. Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation.
If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken. The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be.
Now for some facts regarding the “unparalleled integrity” of Brennan:
1, When Brennan served Barack Obama as CIA director, the CIA appeared as if it tried to silence Benghazi survivors by presenting non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to them at a memorial service for the victims of the Benghazi attack. As Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard noted in a comprehensive piece, “Two former CIA officials who fought in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, were asked to sign additional nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) more than six months after those attacks. The two officials, who will testify Thursday before a subcommittee of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, were presented the nondisclosure agreements during a memorial service in May at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, honoring Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, two of the CIA-affiliated personnel who died during those attacks.”
Hayes noted that Brennan had categorically denied claims that the CIA tried to silence its operatives or contractors from speaking out about their experiences, writing in a letter dated September 3, 2013 to House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers that no officer, whether staff or contractor, had been forced to take a polygraph test or been forced to sign an NDA because of their presence at Benghazi or their participation in any activity related to the Benghazi attacks.
Hayes pointed out, “Several members of the team on the ground in Benghazi that night were presented with new non-disclosure agreements at a CIA ceremony on May 21, 2013, honoring CIA officials killed in those attacks. Some of these CIA officials were asked to sign the new NDAs despite the fact that they were leaving government service and despite the fact that they were still bound by previous NDAs. According to testimony that two of these officials are expected to provide at classified hearings before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Thursday, the new NDAs were both unexpected and unnecessary.”
As Hayes reported, Mark Zaid, who represented three Benghazi survivors, said the NDAs his clients were asked to sign connected to their experiences in Benghazi. He added, “There is no doubt that the NDAs would not have been presented to them had it not been for Benghazi. That is their impression and my analysis based on twenty years of experience.”
2. In another piece by Hayes, he noted that while Brennan was CIA director, after the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, many documents that were captured were buried. Hayes has written of those documents. “Not coincidentally, those documents badly undermined the Obama administration position on al Qaeda, Iran, jihadism, etc.” Hayes pointed out, “Relevant intelligence agencies engaged in a protracted fight about who could have access to the information. The Defense Intelligence Agency was repeatedly denied full access by the CIA, which had ‘executive authority’ over the collection and which was run throughout much of the bureaucratic infighting by John Brennan, an Obama crony who had predicted in April 2012 that al Qaeda would meet its demise by the end of the decade.”
3. In 2014, Brennan wrote a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Senator Saxby Chambliss, the panel’s ranking Republican, acknowledging that the CIA’s penetration of the computer network that had been utilized to review the agency’s torture program was wrong and violated agreements the Intelligence Committee had made with the CIA. He never apologized; instead, he sent another letter that elided any apology, asserting he favored an “independent” accountability review board, whose members would be appointed by Brennan, to review the matter. Unsurprisingly, the accountability board issued a report and exonerated Brennan. Brennan later apologized verbally, but as Vice News reported, Intelligence Committee members said it was unacceptable because there was not a written record of it.