Transcript: Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s Q&A on the nomination of John Brennan as CIA Director

Transcribed & edited by Jenny Jiang

Partial transcript of Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s Q&A on the nomination of White House Counter-Terrorism Adviser John Brennan as the next CIA Director. The Senate Intelligence Committee hearing was held on Feb. 7, 2013:

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.):
…I have been concerned for some time that there is a changing nature of the CIA and that instead of being America’s top spy agency – top human spy agency – to make sure that we have no strategic surprises that it has become more and more executing paramilitary operations. And I’ve discussed this with you in our conversations. How do you see this? I see this as mission creep; I see this as overriding the original mission of the CIA from which you’re so well-versed and more a function of the special operations command. Could you share with me how you see the CIA and what you think about this militarization of the CIA that’s going on? …You might disagree with me and I welcome your disagreement…

John Brennan:
…Senator, the principle mission of the agency is to collect intelligence – uncover those secrets, as you say, to prevent those strategic surprises, and to be the best analytic component within the U.S. government to do the all sorts of analysis that the CIA has done so well for many, many years.

At times, the President asks and directs the CIA to do covert action. That covert action could take any number of forms to include paramilitary. And as we’ve discussed here today on the counter-terrorism front, there are things that the agency has been involved in since 9/11 that, in fact, have been an aberration from its traditional role.

One of the things that I would do if I would to go back is to take a look at that allocation of mission within CIA, the resource that are dedicated to this. And as we had the discussion when I paid my courtesy call, I am concerned that looking at the world, which is a very big place, we need to make sure we have the best intelligence collection capabilities possible and the best analytic capabilities possible, and the CIA should not be doing traditional military activities and operations.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.):
…Now, I want to get to the job of the CIA director. I’m going to be blunt, which will be no surprise to you sir, but I’ve been on this committee for more than 10 years. And with the exception of Mr. Panetta, I feel like I’ve been jerked around by every CIA director. I’ve either been mislead, misrepresented; I’ve had to pull information out often at the most minimal kind of way. From Tenet, with his little aluminum rods to tell us that we had weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to Porter Goss not forthcoming. We know the problems we’ve had on torture. The Chair has spoken eloquently about it all the way. And
quite frankly, during those questions, they were evaded, they were distorted, et cetera. So my question to you is knowing your background, knowing your Jesuit education, knowing what I think your values are, can I have your word that you’re going to be very forthcoming with this committee to speak truth to power, to speak truth about power, and even when it’s uncomfortable where we’re going to have to probe away that is not an easy way to go?

John Brennan:
Honesty, truthfulness was a value that was inculcated in me in my home in New Jersey from my parents, Owen and Dorothy. It still is to this day. Honesty is the best policy. None of us are perfect beings; I’m far from perfect. But Senator, I would commit that I would be honest with this committee and do everything possible to meet your legitimate
needs and requirements. As I think I’ve told you before, I know that you’re a very proud Senator of one of the jewels of the intelligence community – NSA – which resides in Maryland. But it would be my directive to make CIA your favorite intelligence agency and push Keith Alexander aside.

[Laughter]

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