John Brennan Is Set to Be Really Powerful
Everyone in the blogosphere — Glenn, I’m looking in your direction — who may have thought that John Brennan was kneecapped just because he didn’t become CIA director should check out what President-elect Barack Obama had to say about Brennan during the Blair/Panetta rollout:
I’m pleased to announce that John Brennan – a close advisor, CIA veteran and former leader of the National Counter-Terrorism Center – will be my Homeland Security Advisor and Deputy National Security Advisor for Counterterrorism, serving with the rank of Assistant to the President. John has the experience, vision and integrity to advance America’s security.
The point isn’t just that Obama hugged Brennan. (“A close advisor… experience, vision and integrity.”) Assistant to the President” is the highest rank that any White House staffer can hold. Anyone with that rank has the right to walk into the Oval Office and get a sit-down with the president. At the beginning of the Bush administration, Dick Cheney fought to ensure that Scooter Libby held that rank.
Now, what’ll that mean? At a minimum, it’ll mean that when Obama is unsure of something he’s hearing from CIA, or from Dennis Blair as Director of National Intelligence, he’ll turn to Brennan for a second or third opinion. It’s way too early to know — but that won’t stop me from wondering — if Brennan at the White House and Deputy CIA Director Steve Kappes might be the actual centers of power for the intelligence community.