The Next CIA Director May Be a Longhorn

This afternoon, President Obama is expected to announce his picks for two top national security posts—and one of them is a UT grad.

John Brennan, MA ’80, will be the President’s nominee for the post of CIA director—filling the spot vacated by David Petraeus after he resigned due to an extramarital affair. Former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel will be nominated as secretary of defense.

Since earning a master’s in government with a focus in Middle Eastern studies at UT, Brennan has spent more than 25 years at a high level within the CIA. He serves as Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser and was a key planner of the 2011 raid—led by special operations commander William McRaven, BJ ’77, Distinguished Alumnus—that killed Osama bin Laden.

Brennan is a New Jersey native who speaks fluent Arabic and has worked in Saudi Arabia as a CIA station chief. During President Bill Clinton’s tenure, he briefed Clinton daily on national security. He also served as chief of staff to former CIA director George Tenet.

His nomination—which must be confirmed in the Senate—may not be without controversy. Obama first considered Brennan for the top CIA job in 2008, but Brennan withdrew his name after concerns over his ties to enhanced or coercive interrogation techniques (including waterboarding) used during the George W. Bush administration.

Brennan has since spoken out against enhanced interrogation, which some people believe to be torture, and an Obama staffer told CBS News that it’s a non-issue this time around. “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,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser.

Obama will announce the nominations at 1 p.m. EST today.

John Brennan meets with President Obama in the Oval Office on Jan. 4, 2010. Photo courtesy the White House on Flickr.


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