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Brennan, John (Terrorism Czar)

Title: Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism
Reports to: National Security Adviser James L. Jones
Department that handles similar issues: Department of Homeland Security
Duties: guarding against natural disasters and terrorism


  • Graduated from Fordham University in 1977
  • Earned a J.D. from the University of Texas at Austin
  • Took a job as an intelligence director at the CIA in 1980
  • Led counter-terrorism efforts for a variety of CIA programs in the 1990s
  • Became CIA director George Tenet’s chief of staff in 1999
  • Served as CIA deputy executive director, 2001-2003
  • Took a job at the National Counter-Terrorism Center, 2004-2005
  • Worked at Analysis Corporation (2005 to 2008)
  • In mid-2009, Brennan effectively declared an end to the War on Terror: “The President does not describe this as a ‘War on Terrorism,’” Brennan announced. He said that the US would not seek merely to defeat al-Qaeda and its allies, but also to address ignorance, poverty, and repression, since terrorist attacks are often “the final murderous manifestation of a long process rooted in hopelessness, humiliation, and hatred.” As Matt Gurney wrote in FrontPage Magazine, “The War on Terror had become the War on Poverty.” Brennan said that to say the U.S. is fighting "jihadists" is wrongheaded because it is using "a legitimate term, 'jihad,' meaning to purify oneself or to wage a holy struggle for a moral goal" which "risks giving these murderers the religious legitimacy they desperately seek but in no way deserve."
  • During the Bush administration, Brennan supported the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Program, extraordinary rendition, and enhanced interrogation techniques. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Brennan changed that stance, saying repeatedly that the Obama administration would not condone torture. He also called himself a “strong opponent” of the CIA’s techniques in 2008, and has specifically opposed waterboarding.
  • Brennan has opposed U.S. military actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. 
  • On Christmas Day of 2009, a Nigerian member of al Qaeda was permitted to board a Northwest Airlines flight (from Amsterdam to Detroit) even though his name was in a database of suspected terrorists; he attempted to blow up the plane in mid-flight with a powerful chemical bomb. But when he tried detonate the bomb (which was concealed inside his underwear), it started a small fire but failed to explode as planned; passengers and crew members rushed to subdue him. In the aftermath of the attempted bombing, Brennan made clear that the Obama administration would treat the incident as a law-enforcement matter rather than as an act of war or terrorism. He announced that the perpetrator would be offered a plea agreement to persuade him to reveal what he knew about al Qaeda operations in Yemen; if such an agreement could not be worked out, he would be tried in federal court.
  • In a 2010 speech in Washington, Brennan referred to Hezbollah as "a very interesting organization." He claimed it had evolved from a “purely terrorist organization” to a militia, and then into an organization with members in Lebanon’s parliament and serving in Lebanon’s cabinet. Brennan continued, “There are certainly elements of Hezbollah that are truly a concern for us what they’re doing. And what we need to do is find ways to diminish their influence within the organization and to try to build up the more moderate elements.” in the same address, Brennan referred to Israel’s capital city Jerusalem as “al Quds,” the name preferred by Hezbollah and its Iranian overlords.

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