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Ear to the Ground

U.N.’s Drone Investigator Backs Brennan for Top CIA Job

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Posted on Feb 7, 2013
DonkeyHotey (CC BY 2.0)

The head of the United Nations inquiry into drone strikes and targeted killings has endorsed John Brennan, President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser who is facing Senate scrutiny Thursday at his confirmation hearing to become CIA director.

Ben Emmerson, the United Nations special rapporteur for human rights and counterterrorism, told Wired’s Danger Room that Brennan is fit for the position because, while serving as the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, he “had the job of reining in the more extreme positions advanced by the CIA” during deliberations at the White House over targeted killings.

“By putting Brennan in direct control of the CIA’s policy [of targeted killings], the president has placed this mediating legal presence in direct control of the positions that the CIA will adopt and advance, so as to bring the CIA much more closely under direct presidential and democratic control,” Emmerson said. His obtuse language appears intended to avoid harming his chances of investigating the United States’ use of drones.

As the Danger Room shrewdly notes, “[t]he endorsement comes at a critical time for both men: Brennan faces Senate questioning on Thursday afternoon, and Emmerson is negotiating access with the U.S. government to its targeted-killing efforts for his recently announced international inquiry into their legality.” Emmerson could be speaking up at this moment to curry favor with a man who presumably will soon become the director of the program Emmerson is building his career investigating.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Danger Room at Wired:

Emmerson says he can’t know if Brennan will actually carry out fewer drone strikes at the CIA. “What I’m saying is, Brennan has been the driving force for the imposition of a single consistent and coherent analysis, both legal and operational, as to the way the administration will pursue this program,” he explains. “I’m not suggesting that I agree with that analysis. That’s not a matter for me, it’s a matter for states, and there’s a very considerable disagreement about that. But what I am saying is that what he will impose is restraint over the wilder ambitions of the agency’s hawks to treat this program in a manner that is ultimately unaccountable and secret.”

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