A surprise press conference by CIA Director John Brennan on the explosive interrogations report issued by Senate Democrats was a high-wire walk between defenders and critics of the report, and Brennan pulled it off, former CIA station chief Gary Berntsen told Newsmax TV
In sum, Bernsten told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner minutes after the session concluded, Brennan will will probably get to keep both his job and the backing of his agency's rank-and-file.
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Brennan told reporters
at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia that the agency "feared more blows from an enemy we couldn’t see and an evil we could not fathom” after 9/11 but "failed to live up to the standards we set for ourselves."
The CIA's fourth-ranked officer at the time of the attacks, Brennan said that whether the brutal interrogations detailed in the Senate report — including waterboarding, forced rectal feeding and sleep deprivation — were necessary is "unknowable."
But he insisted that intelligence gleaned from the White House-sanctioned methods yielded life-saving information and prevented further terrorist attacks.
"So he's saying that it provided information that was useful, and it's unknowable if that information could have been achieved some other way," said Bernsten. "So it's in support of the program. At the same time, he's admitting mistakes. He's saying we're not going to do it again, and that there'll be no [criminal] prosecution [for torture].
"So I'm not sure he's going to please everybody," said Bernsten, "but he is walking a very, very fine line very capably."
Berntsen — who commanded CIA forces in Afghanistan after 9/11 including operatives at Tora Bora who tried to capture 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden — praised Brennan for providing "the context under which these decisions were made."
Brennan also managed to object discreetly to the long-embargoed, $40 million study which was produced without Republican participation, said Berntsen.
"He … stated that it was not a bipartisan report as other reports had been in the past that were useful SSCI products," said Bernsten, using the acronym for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which is chaired until the end of the current Congress by Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.
"He was careful about his own opinion there," Bernsten said of Brennan. "But it's clear that he was opposed to the [Senate] process. He's the director of CIA, he was in the number four position during the time of this program, and he did come down [on its side], but ever-so-carefully did he say that the program was useful.
"But at the same time, he's admitted that some of the officers went out of the bounds of the parameters under which they were supposed to operate and that others did a very, very good job," said Berntsen. "So he's trying to please all sides here with a little bit of something."
Even with Senate Democrats calling for the administration to clean house
, possibly with a Brennan resignation, he will likely survive the fallout, said Berntsen.
"I don't think we want Brennan replaced at this point," said Bernsten. "He does have the confidence of the president and you're not going to get anybody any better than him right now from this administration."
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