In a letter to Obama at the time, Brennan said he was ‘‘a strong opponent of many of the policies of the Bush administration, such as the pre-emptive war in Iraq and coercive interrogation tactics, to include waterboarding.’’ Many people consider waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods to be torture.
White House officials say they don’t expect Brennan to face similar trouble this time around given his four years of service in the Obama administration.
‘‘The issue has been removed from the debate because the president and John Brennan, as his top counterterrorism adviser, brought those techniques to an end,’’ Rhodes said.
However, Brennan’s nomination will likely put a spotlight on the administration’s controversial drone program. Brennan was the first Obama administration official to publicly acknowledge the highly secretive targeted killing operations.
Brennan has defended the legality of the overseas drone operations and has said they protect American lives and prevent potential terror attacks.
If confirmed, Brennan will succeed David Petraeus, who resigned in November after admitting to an affair with his biographer.
Deputy CIA director Michael Morell has been serving as the agency’s acting director since Petraeus resigned and was considered by Obama for the top job. Rhodes said Morell will attend Monday’s White House event and is expected to stay at the CIA.
Hagel would replace retiring Pentagon chief Leon Panetta at a time when the Defense Department is facing potentially deep budget cuts. Hagel would also be tasked with overseeing the military drawdown in Afghanistan, where the U.S.-led war is scheduled to end in two years.
Hagel is likely to support a more rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan than some military generals.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, the top Senate Republican, said Sunday he was reserving judgment on whether to support Hagel but predicted the former senator would face serious questions.
Any nominee must have ‘‘a full understanding of our close relationship with our Israeli allies, the Iranian threat and the importance of having a robust military,’’ McConnell said on ABC’s ‘‘This Week.’’
The second-ranking Senate Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, said in a statement that making Hagel defense secretary would be ‘‘the worst possible message we could send to our friend Israel and the rest of our allies in the Middle East.’’
Some congressional Democrats also share the GOP concerns, including Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, who called the pick controversial and said Hagel needs to clarify his comments on Iran and Israel.
‘‘There are Democrats including this senator who have questions that have to be answered before I can support him,’’ Cardin said in an interview with Current TV’s ‘‘Bill Press Show.’’ He added that the Senate will probably confirm Hagel.
While Hagel will face opposition, Democrats privately say they do not foresee a long, protracted fight similar to what President George H.W. Bush faced in 1989 when he selected former Sen. John Tower to serve as defense secretary. Democrats led the charge in scuttling that nomination, a rare defeat for a new president. Questions about Tower’s drinking and womanizing sank his nomination.
Monday’s nominations leave Obama without a woman in line for a top administration post, a fact that has irked some Democratic women. The president will soon name a new treasury secretary, but current White House chief of staff Jack Lew is the front-runner for the post.
Associated Press writers Robert Burns, Donna Cassata and Matthew Daly contributed to this report.