What we see is the portrait of a semi-autonomous agency, poorly led and allowed unjustifiable independence by an absentee president -- an agency that has done grave damage to the security and well-being of the United States.
Obama, who campaigned in 2008 on an anti-war platform pledging to lead America on a different course abroad, is arguably not the same president he was four years ago.
Influential members of Congress and presidential candidates have been calling for a return to "enhanced interrogation techniques" and someday in the not too distant future they may get what they want if Director Brennan and President Obama don't pay attention and act now.
Before this year -- before President Obama nominated John Brennan to head the CIA -- there was virtually no public Congressional discussion of the drone strike policy at all.
What better way to make that point than swearing on George Washington's own copy of the Constitution? Why Washington? Few American leaders have been more emphatic about not abusing the power of office.
It's become accepted wisdom that Washington has become pathologically polarized and partisan, with every new debate inevitably breaking down along party lines. That's why it was so remarkable last week when Rand Paul's old-fashioned talking filibuster scrambled the even more old-fashioned right-vs.-left way of looking at the world. The Paul-provoked debate on the confirmation of John Brennan to head the CIA in turn provoked a wider and critical debate about the use of drones -- a debate that needs to continue well beyond Brennan's confirmation. Since 2004, only 2 percent of those killed have been confirmed as militant leaders. From mid-2004 to mid-2012, between 474 and 881 civilians were killed in Pakistan. This includes 176 children. Last week's debate allowed Americans to put themselves in the position of those living under drones overseas -- imagining, even hypothetically, life under drones. And, not surprisingly, most of us didn't like it.
This week, Rand Paul mounted an old-fashioned, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington-style filibuster against President Obama's nominee to head the CIA, John Brennan. The primary issue at hand was the new-fashioned issue of drone strikes. During the marathon monologue, Paul asked, "Where is the Barack Obama of 2007?" In fact, one could also ask: where were the Democrats of 2007? Paul was joined by only one Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden, even though if the Bush administration had acted on drones the way the Obama administration is, there would have been dozens of Democrats up in arms. Of course, the hypocrisy extends to Republicans, many of whom -- after having supported the Patriot Act, warrantless wiretapping, show-your-papers laws, and torture -- have suddenly discovered civil liberties. Brennan wound up getting confirmed but, at least in the process, the bone-headed right/left way of looking at American politics was rather spectacularly scrambled.
We are damaging ourselves, our souls, and the earth. We are dealing out death at a distance, and slowly dying inside. Freedom is hard to bear. But so is war. So is our enslavement and inner blindness.
As Clare Boothe Luce once noted, "They say that women talk too much. If you have worked in Congress you know that the filibuster was invented by men." Here then is a longwinded filibuster soundtrack for Rand Paul and all those who were part of the filibuster of John Brennan.
There was a scarcely noted but classic moment in the Senate hearings on the nomination of John Brennan, the president's counterterrorism "tsar," to become the next CIA director.
Let us remember that the measure of a democratic society is not how it treats its best, but its worst.
The question of civilian casualties is crucial to whether the current drone strike policy is a policy that the public would support. Why don't we ask the Senate Intelligence Committee to do its job of overseeing the CIA?
I know people are on you about shifting U.S. counter-terrorism policy to "targeted, surgical pressure" on militant groups intent on attacking the homeland but whatever -- people harass us for our frat's policy of "targeted, surgical pressure" on sororities all the time. Screw it, you do you.
The CIA pushed for and built the base; the White House clearly accepted it as a fine idea. An informal network of key media sources agreed that it really wasn't worth the bother to tell the American people just how stupidly their government was acting.
I'm sorry, Mr. Brennan, we can't have it both ways. What we're seeking is transparency of drone policies and to end the effects these policies have at home and abroad.
The constant that underlines discussion of extraordinary -- and unconstitutional -- methods to secure the United States against terrorist attack is the premise that a grave menace lurks out there. Yet there is no evidence that such is the case.