Detention & Guantanamo

John Brennan’s Unclassified Answers to Prehearing Questions

By Jack Goldsmith
Thursday, February 7, 2013, 6:03 AM

They can be found here, and (as is typical, and from the nominee’s perspective, desirable), they contain little news.

In response to Question 7 on the CIA’s paramilitary role, Brennan says: “The CIA, a successor to the Office of Strategic Services, has a long history of carrying out para-military style intelligence activities and must continue to be able to provide the President with this option should he want to employ it to accomplish critical national security objectives.”  But when asked about the division of responsibilities with DOD, he says nothing of substance.  He does say (in response to question 8) that “the CIA should not be used . . . to carry out traditional military activities,” but that answer essentially tracks the covert action statute and of course begs the questions about what constitutes a TMA.  In answer to the same question, Brennan declined to commit to make the CIA less “militarized,” while at the same time repeating that it should not do missions that should be carried out by the U.S. military.

On interrogation and detention, Brennan says (in response to Question 34) that, during his earlier tenure at CIA, he had “significant concerns and personal objections to many elements of the EIT program while it was underway” that he voiced “privately with colleagues at the Agency.”  He also said that the CIA “is out of the detention business and it should stay that way.”  He dodged the question whether the EITs were “effective in producing reliable intelligence that saved lives.”

On targeted killing, Brennan says (in response to Question 37) that the imminence assessment was “highly fact-specific” and is made on a case-by-case basis pursuant to a “coordinated interagency process.”  In response to the Question (also in 37) whether the United States is at war with a terrorist organization other than al-Qa’ida and associated forces, he answered: “No, but we face threats from terrorist organizations other than al-Qa’ida and associated forces.”

The answer to Question 40 contains an interesting and relatively lengthy account of the steps the USG takes to determine and respond to collateral damage after drone strikes.