John Brennan, Obama terrorism advisor, to head CIA


White House advisor John Brennan speaks during a memorial service for the Lockerbie bombing victims at Arlington National Cemetery on Dec. 21, 2011.


Brendan Smialowski

On Monday, President Barack Obama officially nominated chief counterterrorism advisor John Brennan to serve as CIA director.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday afternoon flanked by Brennan, Interim CIA Director Mike Morrell, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and nominee Chuck Hagel, Obama hailed Brennan as one of the "most skilled and respected intelligence professionals."

"I'm not sure he's slept in four years," joked Obama, saying that Brennan, as a 25 year veteran of the CIA upheld "high and rigorous standards."

Brennan accepted the nomination, saying that if the Senate confirmed his appointment it would be the "honor of my life" to serve as CIA Director.

He also called for "full and open discourse" on intelligence matters. Brennan said, "I consider myself neither a Republican nor a Democrat, and I look forward to working with those on both sides of the aisle." 

More from GlobalPost: John O. Brennan to be nominated as next CIA director

Brennan's nomination comes two months after David Petraeus, a four-star general, resigned from the CIA's top job due a highly public affair. The Wall Street Journal points out Brennan's nomination is a return to "having a CIA director with close White House ties."

Unlike Republican Chuck Hagel's rumored appointment to serve as secretary of defense, Brennan's appointment will garner less vociferous opposition from the right side of the aisle during Senate confirmation. However, the career intelligence officer is not without a past for politicians to drum up, if they so choose.

Obama considered naming Brennan to head the spy agency in 2009, but according to the New York Times, human rights advocates opposed the nomination, claiming Brennan supported enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding (which many claim is illegal torture), under President George W. Bush. Brennan denied the claims and withdrew his name.

That's when Obama chose Brennan to serve in his current position as Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, which does not require Senate confirmation.

Brennan is considered a counterterrorism expert and speaks fluent Arabic. He's credited, according to the LA Times, for improving inter-agency coordination post 9/11. He has a reputation for being, as the Washington Post describes, "tough-as-nails." He's also earned, at least on once occasion, the reputation of an honest spy.

After the 2009 Christmas Day bomber successfully boarded Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit with plastic explosives, Brennan claimed responsibility for failing to catch the bomber sooner, though no one was harmed.

"I told the President today I let him down," Brennan told reporters.

A 2009 profile of Brennan offers a short list of his storied and eclectic career. Brennan was station chief in Saudi Arabia, served as intelligence briefer under President Bill Clinton, and worked as deputy to CIA Director George Tenet.

Brennan is probably most well known for supporting Obama's drone policy, i.e., the use of drones to kill terrorists abroad. In April this year called the strikes "ethical and just." 

He added, "There is nothing in international law that bans the use of remotely piloted aircraft for this purpose or that prohibits us from using lethal force against our enemies outside of an active battlefield, at least when the country involved consents or is unable or unwilling to take action against the threat."

President Obama is expected to announce his nominations from the White House on Monday at 1:05 p.m. EST. Watch here: