Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States, served many terms of office and appointed many cabinet and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) personnel. Obama’s selection for CIA Director was John O. Brennan. Brennan served as Obama’s CIA director from March 8, 2013, to January 20, 2017.
Brennan was born in North Bergen, New Jersey, in 1955. He studied political science at Fordham University, focus on the Middle East and South Asia. After college, he worked in international affairs for the U.S. Senate for about four years, before joining the Central Intelligence Agency in 1980.
In his 25 years in the CIA, Brennan rose from entry-level positions to eventually serve as the agency’s deputy executive director under the Bush administration. During the Clinton administration, he served as a CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia, as well as a deputy executive director.
When Obama became president, he appointed Brennan as his deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. In this role, he was responsible for overseeing the nation’s counterterrorism operations, including the use of drones.
In March 2013, Obama pressed the Senate to confirm Brennan as CIA director. Brennan and Obama agreed on many matters, including the closure of the CIA’s black sites, the prohibition of torture, and the authorization of targeted-killing operations.
At the helm of the CIA, Brennan had some successes, including the successful takedown of Osama Bin Laden in 2011, and the US and its allies’ successful mission to destroy computer viruses developed by foreign adversaries. Throughout his time as director, Brennan was also criticized for his role in permitting the CIA’s enhanced interrogation tactics during the Bush administration and a lack of transparency regarding drone programs in other countries.
Obama and Brennan had a relationship rooted in trust and understanding. His appointment by Obama sent a strong message to the country that Obama was serious about making major changes and pushing a progressive agenda.
Immigration & Refugees
During his tenure, Brennan was an advocate for protecting U.S. citizens but also, international refugees. Following the rise of ISIS in Syria, Brennan employed different strategies to help refugees and immigrants seeking entry into the United States. He pushed for the implementation of rigorous vetting procedures for all individuals trying to enter the United States. He also attempted to engage foreign leaders to fund and export refugees from the Middle East.
Brennan wanted to ensure the safety of both citizens and immigrants not just in the U.S. but in other countries as well. He spoke about the need for a clear-eyed examination of the immigration process, and advocated for stronger screening processes. He believed that everyone seeking access to the United States should be subjected to the same rigorous screening process regardless of race or religion.
Brennan’s efforts were aimed at preventing any future attacks on American soil by terrorists. He believed that the government should take more proactive measures to protect its citizens while not sacrificing the safety of refugees. His stance on immigration was favorable towards people seeking refuge in America, and his efforts significantly made it easier for vetted people to gain entry into the United States.
Political & Social Democracy
Brennan strongly opposed the erosion of democracy, and advocated for a political and social democracy. His concerns focused on foreign and domestic threats, but he also took a strong stance on human rights and civil rights. He spoke out against the use of torture, and wanted to ensure the humane treatment of suspects and prisoners of war. He also spoke up for workers’ rights and the need for greater labor protections. Brennan was also a supporter of LGBT rights, and he was a strong advocate for the decriminalization of same-sex relationships.
Brennan had a clear vision for the U.S.’s role in democratic countries: to help ensure the safety, success, and long-term stability of democracies. He believed that the U.S. has a responsibility to send a message to the world that democracy is still the best system of government, and that the U.S. should lead by example both abroad and at home. Brennan was an advocate for the United Nations and its humanitarian missions, and he supported its role in providing relief efforts and aid to people in crisis areas around the world.
Brennan’s beliefs were the basis of his decisions and methods as a director at the CIA. He took stands on social issues, made sure that candidates were well-vetted, and advocated for improved international relations.
Diversity & Inclusion
At the CIA, Brennan wanted to ensure fairness and equality, and he often highlighted the importance of building a diverse and inclusive culture within the agency. He was passionate about promoting and maintaining a safe, unbiased, and discrimination-free work force.
For Brennan, the Agency’s workforce should serve as a reflection of the nation in terms of culture, ethnicity, education, and gender. He held all CIA personnel to the highest standards, and believed that a diverse workforce was not only important for achieving the Agency’s missions, but was also necessary for national security.
Brennan’s efforts to foster diversity and inclusion were also present in his leadership style and decision-making. He worked to ensure that all perspectives, backgrounds and viewpoints were taken into consideration when making important decisions. He welcomed honest debate and discussion, and worked to promote open-mindedness while developing strategies and solutions.
Under Brennan’s leadership, the CIA became more welcoming to all backgrounds and biases. He believed that a diverse workforce made the Agency stronger and more efficient. He encouraged all personnel to embrace differences, engage in civil discourse, and build connections with one another. He strived to create an environment of respect and understanding for all, and he wanted to ensure that all CIA personnel were equally valued and heard, regardless of their race, gender, or national origin.
Charity & Philanthropy
Brennan was an ardent believer in giving back to society. Throughout his career, he actively participated in charities, raised funds and awareness, and he donated his time and money to many social causes. His philanthropic endeavors were often motivated by a personal conviction to improve the lives of those less fortunate.
Brennan was also a supporter of public education, and he often gave time to help underprivileged students. He focused his efforts on improving school funding and advocating for all students to receive a quality education, regardless of their background or family. He also encouraged youth to pursue their educational and professional dreams, and he made it a point to speak out against systems that limited students from achieving their aspirations.
Throughout his career, Brennan remained an active and vocal advocate for social justice and humanitarianism. He promoted charities and philanthropic activities that sought to make an impact in the lives of those in need. He often participated in fundraising events, keynotes and panel discussions on making positivechange, and donated a significant portion of his income to charity each year.
Brennan left behind a strong legacy at the CIA, one of transparency and progressivism. His priorities while Director included strengthening diplomatic ties abroad, developing rigorous vetting procedures, closing black sites, decreasing the use of torture, and improving security. He was an advocate for social justice and a voice for the voiceless. He championed the inclusion of underprivileged people and minorities, and argued for the humane treatment of prisoners of war. He also pushed for increased diversity and equity in the workforce and encouraged youth to pursue their dreams.
Brennan was known for his honesty and transparency, for making difficult decisions and for standing up for what he believed in. He left the CIA a stronger agency, safer for all citizens, and more open to alternative opinions, ideas, and perspectives. He was a true public servant, always dedicated to improving national security, protecting citizens, and promoting democracy in the U.S. and abroad.