John Brennan, the Director of the CIA, addressed the Council on Foreign Relations on March 11 and took note of the dramatic pace at which the world’s technology is being transformed, and the staggering array of security challenges that currently confront the Obama administration.
He began his remarks with a personal note and a quick quip about ever-present conspiracy theorists.
“Just over a year ago, I had the privilege of placing my hand on the very first printed copy of the Constitution — a draft edited and annotated by George Washington himself that is one of the most treasured items held in the National Archives,” recalled Brennan. “With my hand on that document, Vice President Biden swore me in as the 21st Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. I chose to take my oath on that precious piece of history as a clear affirmation of what the Constitution means to all of us at the Agency. We have no higher duty than to uphold and defend the rule of law as we strive every day to protect our fellow citizens.”
“Like so many things involving CIA, however, people read nefarious intentions into my decision to take my oath on an early draft of the Constitution that did not contain the Bill of Rights — our Constitution’s first ten amendments,” the CIA director explained. “At the risk of disappointing any conspiracy theorists who might be here today, let me assure all of you that I, along with my CIA colleagues, firmly believe in and honor not only the Constitution but also the Bill of Rights, as well as all subsequent amendments to our Constitution. I just happen to be an ardent admirer of George Washington and of the historical foundations of our great country.”
He took a few moments to try to put the present and future threat of terrorism into what he believes is the proper context.
“While I was at the White House, I often spoke publicly about the terrorist challenges we face as a Nation,” Brennan told his Council on Foreign Relation audience. “After a year as CIA Director, I unfortunately remain convinced that the US Government and the American people will be dealing with terrorism in one form or another for many years to come, as too many individuals and groups remain inclined to use violence for political, ideological, or purported religious reasons.”
“And despite rampant rumors that the CIA is getting out of the counterterrorism business, nothing could be further from the truth. CIA’s global mission, our intelligence collection, analysis, and covert action authorities and capabilities, as well as our extensive liaison relationships with intelligence and security services worldwide, will keep CIA on the frontlines of our counterterrorism efforts for many years to come,” Brennan observed.
After a quick survey of the technological advances which at times advance society and at other times threaten our national security, Brennan took the audience into his inner thinking.
“In the year since my return to CIA, technological advances and their profound implications for both the Agency I lead and the world we study have been very much on my mind,” he said. “If I had the opportunity to start my career all over again, I believe I would start out as a data scientist or engineer in CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology. Like any other information-based and technology-enabled profession, intelligence is undergoing a profound transformation, and the women and men of our Science and Technology Directorate are tackling some truly fascinating issues head-on.”