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Opening Remarks for John Brennan's Confirmation Hearing to be CIA Director

Location: Washington, DC

Thank you. Mr. Brennan, I join the chair in congratulating you on your nomination and welcoming you to the committee today. I do not have to remind you, because you are a career individual, of the importance of your nomination to head the Central Intelligence Agency. I also want to welcome your family and thank them for their support of you during your years of commitment to our government. Also I want to just say, as the Chairman did, how much we appreciate Mike Morell, and I am very pleased to see that in your prepared statements that you mention Mike and his contribution to the CIA and that you intend to keep Mike in place. He is a very valued public servant and a guy who has stepped into very difficult situations now twice and has led with great commitment and has provided the kind of leadership the agency has needed.

Mr. Brennan, if confirmed as the next director, it will be your responsibility to lead the CIA as our nation continues to face significant national security challenges. While we have heard a lot about al-Qa'ida being decimated and on the run, it is by no means destroying it, and the threat of terrorism from its affiliates especially in Yemen and North Africa remains very real. Just in the past few months, terrorist attacks in Algeria and Benghazi have claimed American lives. So, it is clear that our vigilance must not waver, and at the same time our attention focused beyond these threats posed by al-Qa'ida and other organizations, from Iran to North Korea to Venezuela, from nuclear proliferation to cyber intrusions to counterintelligence, the challenges are constant and immense, and the CIA is at the point of the spear.

As your predecessors faced similar challenges, they recognize the importance of working hand in hand with congress, especially the Congressional Intelligence committees. I appreciated your commitment to me to be open and transparent with this Committee if you are in fact confirmed as the next director. I expect this commitment actually be born out in practice regardless of political pressures and not just become words spoken during the confirmation process. Far too often the committee is facing unnecessary and frankly legally questionable obstacles in receiving needed oversight information from the intelligence community.

As we hear from you this afternoon, I also believe it is important for you to set the record straight on a few matters relating to detention policy and the CIA's detention and to interrogation program. We know that the 2009 executive order removed the CIA from the detention business, but the current framework is simply not working to get real-time access to intelligence for terrorist detainees. I reviewed elements of the 9/11 commission report in preparation for this hearing, and I am concerned that the administration is making the same mistakes that were made before 9/11 when the CIA missed vital information on KSM, a vital mastermind of the attacks and decided to forego a capture operation of Osama bin Laden. The commission cited the administration must focus on using the Article 3 court process as factors in both instances. You and I also discussed the committee's report on the CIA's detention and interrogation program which was approved in December by a slim majority. You told me you completed your review of the report of the executive summary and the findings and conclusions, and you will have an opportunity to express your observations and concerns that you expressed to me with the rest at the Committee today.

Mr. Brennan, I thank you once again for your dedication and your service to our country, and I do look forward to your testimony.

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