When President-elect Barack Obama first considered John Brennan for director of the CIA, one of his supporters, an erstwhile War on Terror hawk, implored him not to.
“[I]f Obama picks him, it will be a vindication of the kind of ambivalence and institutional moral cowardice that made America a torturing nation,” wrote the blogger Andrew Sullivan. “It would be an unforgivable betrayal of his supporters and his ideals.”
Brennan, like current CIA Director Gina Haspel, was at the very least in close proximity to Bush-era excesses most observers concluded amounted to torture: enhanced interrogation, extraordinary rendition, secret prisons, and black sites. He later defended, however ambivalently, some of these practices.
Once Obama finally nominated Brennan to run the CIA in 2013, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., mounted a lengthy filibuster protesting his and the administration’s position on extrajudicial killings through drone strikes. The American Civil Liberties Union took much