Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 6, 2009

John Brennan at CSIS

Filed under: Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on August 6, 2009

John Brennan, Deputy National Security Advisor and Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, gave a speech late this morning at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  The speech and a Q&A session concluded about 12:30.

A video of his remarks is available from the CSIS website.

Yesterday Mr. Brennan gave an interview to the Washington Post that places the remarks in an interesting context.  This morning’s Post headlines its report as, “Obama’s battle against terrorism to go beyond bombs and bullets.”

The speech is worth  analysis — and consideration of connections with other homeland security initiatives —  but I am on the run.  Please offer your reactions and analysis using the comment function.

(About an hour later) A bit more, while I wait for my next meeting to begin:

Here are some early news reports:

Obama’s counter-terrorism advisor denounces Bush-era policies (Los Angeles Times)

Brennan says al-Qaeda remains greatest threat to US (Bloomberg)

White House: “War on Terror” is over (Washington Times)

Obama replaces “global war on terror” in strategy shift (AFP)

John Brennan outlines Obama’s counterterrorism strategy (Washington Independent)

I hope there will be a transcript.  The remarks strike me as most valuable for their nuance, but nuance is better assessed by engaging the written word.  Clearly I have no future in broadcast punditry.

(Two minutes later) Ask and ye shall receive, thanks to Foreign Policy a transcript is now available.  Please access: A new approach to safeguarding Americans.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

August 6, 2009 @ 2:47 pm

I have not read the speech transcript but will do so. A basic political judgment has to be made whenever there is a change of administration. To what extent do we criticize the past? If you choose to do so you better take the time and effort to explain exactly how and why you differ from the last administration and the choices they made. In a way this is the very basis of governance! Explaining the how and why and when of what you are doing so that in our democracy (republic) interested citizens and Congress can understand the basis for the change in policy. This is hard work and will examine the speech closely for the time it takes to explain in detail the errors in the old policy, and what review occurred to determine they were erroneous, and then the new policy and what review and studies have led to the new policy. This is called basic governance and neither of the political parties in town really enjoy doing the hard work of governance. More fun to posture. let’s see if Brennan did the hard work or is just posturing?

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 6, 2009 @ 3:30 pm

Okay now I have read the speech. Reluctantly conclude that the speech while substantive is largely posturing and here is my analysis.

First I hate it when any administration spokeperson argues that the primary responsibility of the federal government is to keep Americans safe. The oath of office for the President says nothing about keeping Americans safe but it says alot about upholding and defending the Constitution. How many dictatorships asked for their citizens to allow destruction of civil liberties and repression of others on the basis of delivering “Order” to their citizens. President Nixon came close to never understanding this vital difference in his obligations, for one example. Let’s not get into Locke and Hobbes at this point suffice it to say I am right and Brennan’s premise is erroneous.

Okay, labeling of the GWOT was premised on the fact that Law Enforcement and its methods was too reactive and not proactive enough to deter future attacks. Has this changed and is that part of the relabeling process? For me it has changed quite a bit since before 9/11! I argue that proactive law enforcement is more likely to be successful than waging war in largely Muslim countries, particularly on a pre-emptive basis. So perhaps the effort to reinforce the distinction between the almost 2 Billion worshippers of Islam (Brennan uses the figure 1 billion) as being largely peaceful that is great. On what basis does he reach that conclusion? What is his evidence? He may be right and hoping he is but we the interested public need his analysis. How many formal denunications of 9/11 have been made by the religious leaders of Islam? When, where, how many? And why does he overlook that Christian evangelism has spread in the Armed Forces of the US even to the point of mass baptisms into Christian faith in combat zones in wher US troops deployed?
What does Brennan think of possiblity of ethnic and religious strife over next decades flowing into threats against the US? He argues that poverty alone does not create terrorists but then argues for more foreign aid? The US purchase of oil at world prices is the largest foreign aid program in the world and will continue to be for the next several generations!
And as to treatment of Muslims–what exactly is our immigration policy with respect to those fleeing Iraq, AF-PAK and other areas of the world both those who worship Islam and those who do not? What are the sublteties of our immigration enforcement? Oh and let’s look at Brennan area of expertise! INTEL! Okay has that world improved since 9/11 and the reorganization leading to the DNI operation? Is there better info sharing and if so what problems still exist? Most of his speech focuses on issues an strategies that have NOT been formally repudiated and adjusted by the new Administration! Why is that and what is the endgame for the new regime? Brennan mentions as if victory had been achieved in cyber security yet the resignation of the former White House lead this last week seems to indicate not only lack of progress but lack of the ability of the Admnistration to come to grips with a really tough issue. I have advocated immediate cuts of 2/3 in the domestic physical security budget and devoting those funds immediately to cyber security. Hey we have a forthcoming Winter Olympics in Van Couver and I am certainly hoping that all goes well physical security and otherwise but Michelle Van Cleve in a recent op-ed has argued that cyber espionage is a huge huge problem being swept under the rug by the admistration. How about a complete breakout by department and agency of computer security and cyber security budgets and requests to Congress. I think we may be spending less not more than the previous adminstration on this problem. And hey Mr. Brennan are you the lead now for cyber security Executive Branch wide or is Secretary DHS and if so why no formal delegations to DHS on cyber security lead. And hey with respect to foreign aid, are we going to distribute H1N1 vaccine based on an assessment of world wide need and best defense against the virus or are we just using stockpile vaccine when available to comfort the US? Yes there are tigers out there and you supposedly are a tiger hunter but this speech looks to me like sent over from the White House rather than written by you, but hey I may be wrong.

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