Former Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan has a long history of deceiving the American people and making absurd, propagandist claims. Recall that as President Obama’s CIA director, Brennan repeatedly lied about the administration’s use of drone strikes, asserting that he and the president only carried out strikes when they had a “near-certainty of no collateral damage.” In March 2016, The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf called this claim “easily disproved propaganda.” And that’s what it was.
For instance, The Guardian reported in 2014 that in an attempted strike on 41 targeted men, the United States killed 1,147 people. That’s a lot of collateral. But, as Friedersdorf wrote, Brennan continued to “claim adherence to a lofty, admirable standard that U.S. drone strikes don’t, in fact, meet, unless one defines ‘no collateral damage’ so narrowly that it has no meaning.” Friedersdorf then noted, “This isn’t the first time that Brennan has made fantastical, widely debunked claims,” citing a 2011 New York Times piece that disputed the CIA’s assertions of “zero collateral deaths.”
Indeed, twisting words beyond recognition is Brennan’s primary modus operandi. He is truly a master of Newspeak. To justify these wide-ranging targeted killings under international law, Brennan and the Obama administration perverted the meaning of the word “combatant” to refer to any military-aged male who happened to be in the strike zone, unless explicit intelligence posthumously exonerated the victim. In other words: tried, convicted, and executed until proven innocent—then, sweep the body under the rug.
In pretending to adhere to the international legal requirement that those targeted by such strikes must pose an “imminent threat,” Brennan again stretched the generally accepted legal definition of “imminent threat” to apply to any suspected combatant (i.e., any adult male) who could potentially at some unknown future date carry out some unspecified and hypothetical attack against the United States. If that loose definition applied to self-defense laws in the domestic criminal context, we could all go around murdering our perceived enemies with impunity. So much for the rule of law Brennan is always claiming to defend.
These perversions of legal terms and of the English language in general permitted Brennan and the Obama administration to go on a covert killing spree that further weakened international legal norms. Regardless of whether one agrees with U.S. drone policy under Obama, there can be no denying Brennan’s repeated deceptions and manipulations of language as he attempted to assuage the concerns of the American public, Congress, and foreign governments.
Brennan habitually uses words in a manner that deprives them of all meaning. His definition of “treason,” of which he accused President Trump, fits this pattern of extreme overbreadth, here adding hysterical distortion.
He defended his treason accusation by suggesting that Trump, in his press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, gave “aid and comfort to the enemy” by appearing to accept Putin’s claim that Russia did not meddle in the 2016 elections. Appearing to agree with someone does not amount to giving “aid and comfort,” and Putin is not by any legal definition an “enemy.” But then, legal terms have no meaning for Brennan, as he has repeatedly shown.
The mainstream news outlets are attempting to characterize revoking Brennan’s security clearance as an effort by Trump to silence all who criticize him. Deceptive characterizations like this have earned the media the moniker of “fake news” from millions of Americans.
First, revoking Brennan’s security clearance does not silence him. If he were indeed planning to use his security clearance to obtain information to share on MSNBC, then Trump was certainly right to revoke it.
Second, Brennan did not merely “criticize” Trump. He erroneously and deliriously accused him of treason, multiple times, and did so by committing the same abuses of language that have characterized his public career. A “combatant” is any male we happen to kill, an “imminent threat” is any hypothetical or imaginary risk, “no collateral damage” means thousands of dead civilians, and being too deferential to the president of a somewhat hostile nation is providing “aid and comfort” to an “enemy.”
Treason is punishable by death. Brennan, who lambasts Trump for lacking “civility,” all but called for the president’s execution on live television. He is free to do so. And Trump is free to take away the security clearance of a man who has exhibited such complete detachment from, or indifference to, reality.
Brennan is a word-bending, mischaracterizing, deceptive propagandist, so he has found his true calling as an MSNBC pundit. But he is no longer conducting himself like a respectable CIA officer, if he ever was, and he no longer deserves a security clearance, if he ever did.