Executive Sessionby Former Senator Mark Udall
Posted on 2013-03-07
UDALL of Colorado. Madam President, I rise in support of the
nomination of John Brennan to be the next director of the Central
Intelligence Agency. Mr. Brennan earned a bipartisan vote of 12-3 in
the Senate Intelligence Committee, on which I serve. He is clearly
qualified to lead the CIA and deserved that bipartisan vote in
committee. And he deserves confirmation by the full Senate today.
I say that in spite of the difficulties my colleagues and I encountered in extracting information and commitments throughout the confirmation process. Our concerns were less about John Brennan himself and more about the role that the next CIA director needs to play. And we believe that the information and commitments we finally secured from him and from the White House are extraordinarily relevant to the role of any CIA director.
Alongside several of my colleagues, I fought to enhance transparency and preserve our system of checks and balances. The American people have the expectation that their government is upholding the principles of oversight and accountability.
Consistent with our national security, the presumption of transparency should be the rule, not the exception. The government should make as much information available to the American public as possible, while protecting national security.
We have seen during previous administrations the problems that can arise when even the intelligence committees are left out of the loop: warrantless wiretapping, extraordinary detention and torture. Ben Franklin put it well when he said: ``Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.'' Congressional oversight is critical to ensure that we sacrifice neither, as we pursue a smart, but tough, national security strategy, especially in this age of new forms of warfare.
This was true over the past several months, as I joined Senator Wyden and others in pushing hard for access to the legal justification used by the executive branch to lethally target Americans using drones. The fact that we had to push so hard, I am sorry to say, no doubt erodes the government's credibility with the American people. But it also gives us an opportunity--and a good reason--to maintain and strengthen our system of checks and balances.
I am glad the Administration met our requests and is giving members of the Intelligence Committee access to legal opinions on targeting American citizens. This is an important first step. But there is more to be done for Congress to understand the limits on the drone program.
Madam President, our government has an obligation to the American people to face its mistakes transparently, help the public understand the nature of those mistakes, and then correct them. In this regard, the next Director of the CIA has an important task.
The specific mistakes I am referring to are outlined in the Intelligence Committee's 6,000-page report on the CIA's deeply flawed detention and interrogation program. Acknowledging the flaws of this program is essential for the CIA's long-term institutional integrity as well as the legitimacy of ongoing sensitive programs.
I know the Presiding Officer will take a keen interest in this as she is a strong supporter of civil liberties and protecting our freedoms. That is why I will hold Mr. Brennan to the promise he made to me at his confirmation hearing; that is, to correct inaccurate information in the public record on the CIA's detention and interrogation program. That is why I will continue to urge him to ensure that the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on this flawed program is declassified and made public.
In the committee's confirmation hearing, Mr. Brennan promised to be an advocate of ensuring the committee has what it needs to do its functions. I believe Mr. Brennan is that advocate.
I look forward to working with him and the administration with my goal of protecting our national security while also safeguarding America's constitutional freedoms and determining the limits of executive branch powers in this new age of warfare.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Maryland.