Obama eyes CIA official who defended Bush policies for top counterterror role

That would be John Brennan, his intel advisor during the campaign, whose support for Dubya’s interrogation protocols after 9/11 (not including waterboarding) made him sufficiently radioactive to progressives to torpedo his chances at running Central Intelligence. A defeat for The One? Not quite: Instead of risking a confirmation battle with the left by naming Brennan to run CIA, he’s evidently planning to move him upstairs to the White House to be his homeland security advisor — which doesn’t require Senate confirmation. And which, given the fact that the incoming CIA chief is a yes man with no experience, means Brennan will have plenty of influence over counterterrorism policy, especially domestically.

Well played, Messiah. Very well played.

The plan being discussed would eliminate the independent homeland security adviser’s office and assign those duties to the National Security Council to streamline sometimes overlapping functions. A deputy national security adviser would be charged with overseeing the effort to guard against terrorism and to respond to natural disasters.

Democrats close to the transition said Mr. Obama’s choice for that job was John O. Brennan, a longtime C.I.A. veteran who was the front-runner to head the spy agency until withdrawing in November amid criticism of his views on interrogation and detention policies. His appointment would not require Senate confirmation…

The likely selection of Mr. Brennan to take over domestic security issues in the White House represents a turnaround. Mr. Brennan, a former C.I.A. officer in the Mideast who served as the first director of the National Counterterrorism Center, was seen as the favorite for C.I.A. director after the Nov. 4 election. But he abruptly pulled out after critics of Mr. Bush sharply criticized Mr. Brennan for past comments that seemed to defend C.I.A. operations after Sept. 11. Mr. Brennan defended his record and called himself an opponent of the harsh interrogation methods used in recent years.

As the blockquote suggests, it’s unclear whether The One will keep the Homeland Security Council (not to be confused with DHS) intact or roll it into the NSC, but Brennan’s role in shaping counterterror protocol seems guaranteed to be significant either way. The HSC is a Bush creation and operates very much below the radar, so Obama may decide to liquidate the brand while retaining the product and simply reassigning its personnel to a sister agency. And on that note, here’s Newsweek editor Jon Meacham with your thought for the day.