The Corner

Politics & Policy

A Reply to Ronald Radosh’s Smear

CIA director John Brennan testifies on Capitol Hill, June 16, 2016. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

In a strange attack on my criticism of former CIA director John Brennan’s lack of veracity, Ron Radosh alleges that I have engaged in a sort of conspiracy theory about the deep state. He quotes me in an article largely devoted to Jerome Corsi’s new book, which I have not read and whom I have never met, under the Daily Beast scare title, “Pro-Trump Author Says CIA Has Plan to Kill the President.”

Radosh apparently puts me in conspiratorial company for believing the following:

The distinguished historian Victor Davis Hanson, writes that “If there is such a thing as a dangerous ‘deep state’ of elite but unelected federal officials who feel that they are untouchable and unaccountable, then John Brennan is the poster boy.” He adds that “Brennan is typical of the careerist deep state.” They operate [sic] “the psychological tactic known as ‘projection.’ To square their own circles of lying, our so-called best and brightest loudly accuse others of precisely the sins that they themselves commit as a matter of habit.”

In truth, what I wrote about John Brennan’s lying was not predicated on any Trump tweet or conspiracy theory, or the theories of Jerome Corsi, but simply based on the factual record, which Radosh is apparently completely unaware of, or uninterested in:

1) In 2011, Brennan, then the country’s chief counterterrorism adviser, had sworn to Congress that scores of drones strikes abroad had not killed a single noncombatant — at a time when both the president and the CIA were both receiving numerous reports of civilian collateral deaths.

2) In 2014, John Brennan, now as CIA director, lied emphatically that the CIA had not illegally accessed the computers of U.S. Senate staffers who were then exploring a CIA role in torturing detainees. Or as he told Andrea Mitchell: “As far as the allegations of the CIA hacking into Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth. . . . We wouldn’t do that. I mean, that’s just beyond the, you know, the scope of reason in terms of what we do.” Brennan’s chronic deceptions drew the ire of a number of liberal senators, some of whom echoed the Washington Post’s call for his immediate resignation. After months of prevarications, but only upon release of the CIA inspector general’s report, Brennan apologized to the senators he had deceived.

3) Brennan, in May 2017, as an ex-CIA director, again almost certainly did not tell the truth to Congress when he testified in answer to Representative Trey Gowdy’s questions that he neither knew who had commissioned the Steele dossier nor had the CIA relied on its contents for any action. Yet both the retired National Security Agency director, Michael Rogers, and the former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, have conceded that the Steele dossier — along with the knowledge that it was a Clinton-campaign-funded product — most certainly did help shape the Obama’s intelligence communality interagency assessments and actions, often under the urging of Brennan himself. There are also numerous reports that, despite his denials about knowledge of the dossier, Brennan served as a stealthy conduit to ensure that it was disseminated widely, at least in the sense of meeting in August 2016 with Senator Harry Reid to brief the senator about its unverified contents in hopes that he would pressure the FBI to further its investigations, which Reid did in a call two days later to James Comey.

The list of Brennan’s unprofessional and bizarre behavior could be expanded, such as his weird tweet in reaction to the Trump firing of compromised FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe (who would shortly be recommended for criminal referrals for misleading federal investigators by the nonpartisan inspector general): “When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America . . . America will triumph over you.” Andy McCabe was not “scapegoated” but found to be likely mendacious enough by the inspector general to warrant a DOJ investigation.

Brennan in 2009 falsely claimed that intelligence agencies had not missed evidence suggesting that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a.k.a. the “underwear bomber,” might blow up a U.S. airliner. In 2010, he offered a surreal redefinition of jihad (e.g., “Nor do we describe our enemy as “jihadists” or “Islamists” because jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam, meaning to purify oneself or one’s community”), this from a careerist whose transition from the Bush administration into the Obama administration drew the ire of liberals for his prior prominent defense of enhanced interrogations followed by convenient formidable criticism of them. In 2011, his official statements about the Osama bin Laden raid were contradictory.

I stand by my characterization that “If there is such a thing as a dangerous ‘deep state’ of elite but unelected federal officials who feel that they are untouchable and unaccountable, then John Brennan is the poster boy.” Contrary to Radosh and his sensational Daily Beast article, that characterization has nothing to do with the work of Jerome Corsi or Trump’s tweets, but everything to do with an unequal application of the law that otherwise can fall very heavily on officials who purportedly mislead federal investigators, as in the case of Gen. David Petraeus or Gen. Michael Flynn.

We are currently witnessing two parallel investigations: One is Robert Mueller’s, who is mandated to explore whether Donald Trump colluded with the Russians to warp the 2016 election leading to Hillary Clinton’s defeat, and another by federal agencies and congressional committees into whether members of the Obama administration’s intelligence and national-security teams improperly used their powers to surveille (and unmask and leak the names of) U.S. citizens, including misleading a U.S. FISA court on the basis of an opposition-researched and unverified dossier, to monitor improperly a political campaign by the insertion of an “informant” in it, and to leak damaging but unproven information to alter a presidential election and transition. That numerous FBI and DOJ officials have already been reassigned, resigned, fired, or retired has nothing to do with a conspiracy theory. The facts will eventually come out about both lines of inquiry, but we already know well enough about the proven lack of veracity of one John Brennan and his various iterations.

Victor Davis Hanson — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.

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