This kind of mendacity in the service of politics was the rule for Brennan, not the exception. Brennan was one of the chief architects of President Obama’s “strategy” for fighting terrorism. That strategy hinged on the idea that the jihadists’ territorial ambitions didn’t really matter. Remember Obama’s remark that the predecessor to ISIS and other al Qaeda-affiliated groups were the “jayvee” of terrorism? Brennan laid the groundwork for that view. During a speech on June 29, 2011, Brennan claimed that al Qaeda’s “grandiose vision” of an “Islamic caliphate” is an “absurd” and “feckless delusion that is never going to happen.” Three years later to the day, on June 29, 2014, ISIS declared itself to be a caliphate, ruling over a large part of Iraq and Syria. ISIS didn’t invent the idea of a jihadist caliphate out of thin air. Bin Laden and his men had preached it for years, including when the ISIS’ forerunner was part of al Qaeda’s global network.

Six months before the 2012 election, the Obama administration launched a comprehensive effort to demonstrate that the president had kept America safe. John Brennan, then chief White House counterterrorism adviser, gave a speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden. Al Qaeda, Brennan claimed, was on the run. The future CIA director predicted that the global terrorist organization would see its “demise” by the end of this decade. This wasn’t analysis, it was politics. Brennan made the claim despite a wealth of evidence—classified and open source—that al Qaeda was amassing more territory and recruiting more fighters.