CIA Director John Brennan has warned President-elect Donald Trump to avoid off-the-cuff remarks once he takes office.
The outgoing CIA chief said spontaneity was not in the interests of national security.
Donald Trump is known for regularly making broad pronouncements on issues of national importance on his Twitter feed.
John Brennan also said that Donald Trump did not fully appreciate Russia’s capabilities or intentions.
He said: “I think Mr. Trump has to understand that absolving Russia of various actions that it’s taken in the past number of years is a road that he, I think, needs to be very, very careful about moving down.”
Image source Wikimedia
John Brennan’s remarks, in an interview for Fox News Sunday, come a week after the release of a US intelligence report which said Russian President Vladimir Putin had likely attempted to influence the election.
Donald Trump is considered to have underplayed for months the conclusions of the intelligence community that Moscow hacked Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The president-elect only accepted them at a news conference on January 11.
Meanwhile both the Kremlin and Donald Trump’s team have denied reports in the Sunday Times that the two sides were planning a summit between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in the Icelandic capital Reykjavik.
Reykjavik was the venue for a summit in 1986 – near the end of the Cold War – between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the then US and Soviet leaders.
John Brennan said “talking and tweeting” was not an option for Donald Trump, who takes office on January 20.
“Spontaneity is not something that protects national security interests and so therefore when he speaks or when he reacts, just make sure he understands that the implications and impact on the United States could be profound,” he said.
“It’s more than just about Mr. Trump. It’s about the United States of America.”
John Brennan also took Donald Trump to task for accusing the intelligence services of leaking an unverified dossier which suggests Russian security officials have compromising material on him, which could make him vulnerable to blackmail.
“What I do find outrageous is equating the intelligence community with Nazi Germany,” the CIA chief said, referring to a tweet by Donald Trump on January 11.
“There is no basis for Mr. Trump to point fingers at the intelligence community for leaking information that was already available publicly.”
However, Donald Trump responded with tweets quoting veteran Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward, who told Fox News Sunday that the dossier should never have been presented at an intelligence briefing and that the intelligence services should apologize for their mistake.
The media should also apologize, Donald Trump added.
Donald Trump has described the claims as “fake news” and “phoney stuff”.
Russia also denies the existence of the dossier and says allegations that it ran a hacking campaign to influence the elections are “reminiscent of a witch-hunt”.
A secret congressional report into the 9/11 attacks will clear Saudi Arabia of any responsibility if it will be published, CIA chief John Brennan has said.
Keeping 28 pages of the report secret has sparked speculation that the attack had received official Saudi support.
The documents are also central to a dispute over whether the families of 9/11 victims should be able to sue the Saudi government.
However, Saudi Arabia denies any involvement.
Fifteen out of the 19 hijackers in the 9/11 attacks were Saudi citizens.
America is remembering the victims of the 9-11 attacks in a series of memorials marking the 12th anniversary
Former senator Bob Graham, who headed the Senate intelligence committee that compiled the classified report in 2002, has said that Saudi officials did provide assistance to the 9/11 hijackers.
However, John Brennan said this was not the case.
In an interview with Saudi-owned Arabiya TV, he said: “So these 28 pages I believe are going to come out and I think it’s good that they come out. People shouldn’t take them as evidence of Saudi complicity in the attacks.”
John Brennan also described the 28-page section of the 2002 report as merely a “preliminary review”.
“The 9/11 commission looked very thoroughly at these allegations of Saudi involvement… their conclusion was that there was no evidence to indicate that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually had supported the 9/11 attacks,” he said.
Last month, a bill to allow Americans to sue Saudi Arabia over the attacks, in which nearly 3,000 people died, was passed by the Senate and now moves to the House of Representatives.
Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister has warned that the move could cause his government to withdraw US investments.
Bob Graham has said that the White House would decide whether to release the classified pages this month.
CIA chief John O. Brennan has ordered a major overhaul of the spy agency.
In a memo to staff, the CIA director said that the changes were driven by a wider range of threats and the impact of technological advancements.
The reforms aim to impose greater accountability on managers and to improve cyber capabilities.
The biggest change is the breakdown of the division between operators and analysts.
Historically, those who run operations and those who interpret the intelligence they gather have been kept separate in different divisions and offices.
Under the new plans they would brought together in 10 “Mission Centers”, each run by an assistant director.
There are a handful of such facilities at the moment, including the Counter Terrorism Centre, where analysts and operators have worked side by side for the past decade.
In his memo to staff, John Brennan highlighted the dangers presented by cyber terrorism, but also the opportunities that technological advancement offered the agency.
He called on the CIA to “embrace and leverage the digital revolution” and announced the creation of the Directorate of Digital Innovation.
John Brennan told reporters that the cell-like nature of the agency often meant that there was no one person he could hold accountable for a spying mission.
“There are a lot of areas that I would like to have better insight to, better information about, better access to,” John Brennan said.
Correspondents say the changes are a result of increasing concerns that the CIA’s focus on terrorism following the 9/11 attacks has blunted its abilities to deal with other threats.
The move to greater accountability comes after John Brennan admitted that some officers had acted beyond their authority following a 2014 Senate report that criticized the agency’s use of enhanced interrogation methods.
Responding to the report, John Brennan admitted that some of the methods were “abhorrent” but defended the CIA’s record.
Director John Brennan has defended the CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation techniques but admitted some methods were “harsh” and “abhorrent”.
Speaking at CIA headquarters, John Brennan said some officers acted beyond their authority but most did their duty.
According to the Senate report, “brutal” methods like waterboarding were ineffective.
However, John Brennan asserted the CIA “did a lot of things right” at a time when there were “no easy answers”.
“Our reviews indicate that the detention and interrogation programme produced useful intelligence that helped the United States thwart attack plans, capture terrorists and save lives,” Brennan told a rare CIA news conference in Virginia.
“But we have not concluded that it was the use of <<enhanced interrogation techniques>> (EITs) within that program that allowed us to obtain useful information from detainees who were subjected to them,” he added.
“The cause-and-effect relationship between the use of EITs and useful information subsequently provided by the detainee is, in my view, unknowable.”
While he was speaking, Senator Dianne Feinstein, who heads the committee that produced the report, was rejecting his arguments on Twitter.
One tweet said: “Brennan: <<unknowable>> if we could have gotten the intel other ways. Study shows it IS knowable: CIA had info before torture. #ReadTheReport.”
John Brennan was a senior CIA official in 2002 when the detention and interrogation program was put in place.
An outgoing Democratic Senator, Mark Udall, has called on John Brennan to quit, citing interference from the CIA in preparing the report.
A summary of the larger classified report says that the CIA carried out “brutal” and “ineffective” interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects in the years after the 9/11 attacks on the US and misled other officials about what it was doing.
The information the CIA collected using “enhanced interrogation techniques” failed to secure information that foiled any threats, the report said.
John Brennan described the actions of some CIA agents as “harsh” and “abhorrent” but would not say if it constituted torture.
He added an overwhelming number of CIA agents followed legal advice from the justice department that authorized some of the brutal methods.
“They did what they were asked to do in the service of their nation.”
The UN and human rights groups have called for the prosecution of US officials involved in the 2001-2007 program.
However, the chances of prosecuting members of the Bush administration are unlikely – the US justice department has pursued two investigations into mistreatment of detainees and found insufficient evidence.
On December 10, an unnamed justice department official told the Los Angeles Times prosecutors had read the report and “did not find any new information” to reopen the investigation.
CIA chief nominee John Brennan will face a grilling soon at a Senate confirmation hearing.
The session comes as lawmakers were to receive secret papers setting out the rationale for drone strikes on Americans working with al-Qaeda abroad.
Members of President Barack Obama’s own Democratic party are concerned about John Brennan’s role in US drone policy.
He was a top CIA official under President George W. Bush.
John Brennan, 57, is also likely to face questions about his position on harsh interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, that were used by the CIA while he was a senior official there.
Correspondents say that despite these concerns there has been no suggestion that members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence object to John Brennan’s nomination.
He is expected to be confirmed by the panel and later by the full Senate.
A vote to confirm former Republican Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel as secretary of defence has been delayed amid opposition from some member of his own party.
John Brennan could face tough questions from Senator Ron Wyden, a Democratic member of the panel, who has vowed to press the nominee on drones.
Senator Wyden told MSNBC: “To make very clear, I am going to push for more declassification of these key kinds of [drone] programmes, and I think we can do that consistent with national security.”
CIA chief nominee John Brennan will face a grilling soon at a Senate confirmation hearing
On the eve of Thursday’s hearing, the committee released John Brennan’s answers to some preliminary questions.
John Brennan said he “had significant concerns and personal objections” about extreme interrogation techniques used by the CIA, adding he was “aware of the program but did not play a role in its creation, execution, or oversight”.
On drones, John Brennan said no new legislation was necessary for the US to conduct operations against al-Qaeda anywhere in the world.
He said individuals were targeted for killing “on a case-by-case basis through a coordinated interagency process” involving intelligence, military, diplomatic and other agencies.
John Brennan also acknowledged “instances when, regrettably and despite our best efforts, civilians have been killed”.
“It is exceedingly rare, and much rarer than many allege,” he added.
John Brennan’s hearing comes a day after the Department of Justice sent Congress documents laying out the legal rationale for targeting and killing US citizens who are suspected of working with terror groups.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate committee, said: “It is critical for the committee’s oversight function to fully understand the legal basis for all intelligence and counterterrorism operations.”
The justice department acted after NBC News published a leaked internal memo explaining some of the legal arguments.
John Brennan is believed to have been deeply involved.
The CIA has carried out drone strikes in Yemen, where three American citizens linked to al-Qaeda have been killed: Anwar al-Awlaki, his 16-year-old-son and Samir Khan.
Recent opinion polls have suggested that the US public generally supports the drone programme, especially when compared with the possibility of ground assault.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who has opposed the appointment of Chuck Hagel as defence secretary, said: “The drone programme to me is a logical use of how you deal with an enemy combatant.”
John Brennan was considered for the top post at the intelligence agency in 2008.
But he withdrew his name from consideration amid protests over public statements he made on the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” such as waterboarding, which are viewed by many as torture.
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