Transcript: Sen. Saxby Chambliss’s opening statement on the nomination of John Brennan as CIA Director

Transcribed & edited by Jenny Jiang

Partial transcript of opening statement by Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) 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:

…Mr. Brennan, if confirmed as the next Director, it’ll be your responsibility to lead the CIA as our nation continues to face significant national security challenges. While we’ve heard a lot in recent months about Al Qaeda being decimated and on the run, it is by no means destroyed. The threat of 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.

At the same our attention focus beyond these threats posed by Al Qaeda and other terrorist 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 predecessor face similar challenges, they recognize the importance of working hand-in-hand with Congress, especially the Congressional intelligence committees. I appreciate 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 to be borne 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 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 in the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. We know the 2009 executive order removed the CIA from the detention business.

But the current framework is simply not working to give real-time access to intelligence from terrorist detainees. I reviewed elements from the 9/11 Commission report in preparation for this hearing, and I’m concerned that the administration is making the same mistakes that were made before 9/11 when the CIA missed vital information on KSM [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed], the mastermind of the attacks, and decided to forgo a capture operation of Osama bin Laden. The commission cited the administration’s focus on using the Article III process as factor 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 that you have completed your review of the report’s executive summary and the findings and conclusions, and you’ll have an opportunity to express your observations and the concerns that you’ve expressed to me with the rest of the committee today.

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