Where's the New CIA Director?

I was relieved when President-elect Obama officially announced that he would retain Defense Secretary Robert Gates. I was also impressed with his choice of Gen. James Jones as his National Security Advisor. I was less impressed with his choice Hiliary Clinton as Secretary of State, but reasonable minds can differ.

However, as we are only three weeks from Inauguration Day, there are two gaping holes in Mr. Obama's national security team - Director of National Intelligence and CIA Director. Obviously, these are two critical positions within our national security apparatus. Therefore, it is imperative that whomever is chosen is ready to go on day one of the new administration.

So why, with only three weeks until his big day, has Mr. Obama not yet made nominations to these important positions? Fox News reported last week that it is due to pressure from left-wing bloggers over the President-elect's first choice for CIA Director, John Brennan. Mr. Brennan served as the Obama campaign's chief intelligence adviser. However, the left-wing bloggers began a campaign, which was successful, to have Mr. Brennan disqualified from serving in any high level position within the new administration. These bloggers claimed that Mr. Brennan was involved in torture and renditions. Evidently, Brennan made the tragic mistake of publicly stating that the Rendition Program (started under the Clinton Administration) was a valuable intelligence gathering tool.

The situation with John Brennan raises two questions in my mind. First, if everyone involved in coercive interrogation and Rendition is disqualified from serving in high ranking intelligence positions within the Obama administration, who will left? Second, will the new administration always buckle to pressure from left wing special interests?

Let me answer the second question first. My sense is yes, for the most part anyway. The far left wing in this country was instrumental in helping Mr. Obama secure the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. Those on the left basically had a litmus test - were you against the Iraq War from the beginning. Hilary Clinton failed that test. Mr. Obama did not. Therefore, as with all politicians, Mr. Obama owes a political debt to these people and they expect that it will be repaid. There is nothing unusual about this. It only becomes a problem when it forces the administration policy into policies that negatively impact the American people, especially in the national security arena. Therefore, it is unfortunate that Mr. Obama bowed to this pressure because Mr. Brennan appears well qualified to be CIA Director and would have been a valuable voice in the continued prosecution of the War on Terror.

The more disturbing of my two questions is the first one. Based upon this incident, if Mr. Obama takes the position of these left-wing bloggers to its logical conclusion, no individual who served within the intelligence community under President Clinton or President George W. Bush would be eligible to hold high posts with such community in the new administration. At a time of war, it is imperative that we have qualified and experienced individuals in high ranking intelligence positions. It was a failure of intelligence failures that led to 9/11. It was intelligence failures that kept us in the dark about the Indian and Pakistani nuclear programs. It was because of intelligence failures that we did not find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I could go on and on.

The point is, the country is not served by appointing politically pure ideologues to high level national security positions. The issues we face today are too complicated to give left-wing bloggers a veto of the CIA Director or the Director of National Intelligence. Mr. Obama should find the best people available regardless of whether they served Mr. Bush or Mr. Clinton. The intelligence game is rough and it must transcend the political whims of those on the extreme left.

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