CIA nominee: No regret in opposing bin Laden strike

The White House’s nominee for CIA chief has said he does not regret advising against a strike targeting Osama bin Laden in 1998, a few months before the bombings of two US embassies in Africa.

John Brennan, the son of Irish emigrants, yesterday said the attack could have killed other people as well as bin Laden, and the chances of success were minimal.

He also told the Senate intelligence committee that the information supporting the attack was “not well-grounded”.

He said he was among numerous intelligence officials who urged against such an attack, and their advice was followed.

Brennan was CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia at the time of the embassy bombings.

Speaking at his confirmation hearing, Brennan pledged to bring openness to the CIA and repair a “trust deficit” with congressional politicians.

He acknowledged that critics have accused the White House of failing to be as forthcoming with Congress and the public on national security issues as Barack Obama prom-ised to be as president.

Brennan said he would be candid and blunt, and give politicians, in his words, “straight answers from me, maybe not always ones you will like”.

Committee chair Dianne Feinstein asked him to act on that pledge by making the top-secret memo on White House drone policy available to her staffers as well as to committee members.

The hearing was interrupted repeatedly by protests — once before it began and then several times before Brennan had completed his brief statement.

At one point, Democrat Feinstein ordered the proceedings to be halted and the room cleared so those re-entering could be screened to block obvious protesters.

The shouted protests centred on CIA drone strikes which have killed three US citizens and an unknown number of foreigners overseas.

In the hours before the hearing began, Obama ordered that a classified paper outlining the legal rationale for striking at US citizens be made available for members of the House and Senate intelligence panels to read.

The Senate committee will eventually vote on Brennan’s CIA appointment.

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