‘‘I have many questions and concerns about his nomination to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency, especially what role he played in the so-called enhanced interrogation programs while serving at the CIA during the last administration, as well as his public defense of those programs,’’ McCain said in a statement.
Senate Intelligence chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, whose committee will hold hearings to consider Brennan’s nomination, said she too will pursue answers about the interrogations program, which was adopted shortly after 9/11 during the administration of President George W. Bush. But she made clear that Brennan will sail through confirmation: ‘‘I believe he will be a strong and positive director,’’ Feinstein said in a statement.
The hearings also will give senators a chance to shed new light on a program that Brennan has strongly endorsed: the targeted attacks on militant hideouts overseas by drones, or unmanned spy planes.
Brennan was the first Obama administration official to publicly acknowledge the drone program, which he termed last April ‘‘legal,’’ ‘'ethical’’ and ‘‘wise’’ despite the civilian casualties. He has described himself as fully committed to upholding moral and legal avenues to combatting terrorism and making the strategies for doing so as public as possible. Experts believed the U.S. has more than quadrupled the number of drone strikes since Obama took over from Bush.
Additionally, Brennan is expected to be asked about alleged Obama administration leaks of classified information to reporters, which is under Justice Department investigation.
If confirmed, he would return to the CIA, where he worked for 25 years, including a stint as station chief in Saudi Arabia and as President Bill Clinton’s daily intelligence briefer, to bolster an agency that has been somewhat sidelined by intelligence reforms following 9/11, and was shocked by the sudden November resignation of former director Gen. David Petraeus, who left after admitting to an affair with his biographer.
CIA officers and other intelligence officials ‘‘need and deserve the support of all of their fellow Americans, especially at a time of such tremendous national security challenges,’’ Brennan said.