January 8, 2013

President digs in for fight over Hagel, Brennan nominations

Maine's two U.S. senators both say they will reserve judgments until the end of the confirmation process.

By JULIE PACE The Associated Press


CHARLES “CHUCK” HAGEL

AGE: 66

EDUCATION: Graduate, Brown Institute for Radio and Television, Minneapolis, 1966; bachelor’s degree, history, University of Nebraska, Omaha, 1971.

EXPERIENCE:

Chairman of the Atlantic Council and the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration Advisory Committee;

co-chairman of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board and member of the Defense Policy Board.

U.S. senator, 1997-2009;

president, McCarthy & Co., an investment banking firm based in Omaha, Neb., 1992-1996;

president and chief executive officer of the Private Sector Council, a nonprofit business organization in Washington, D.C., 1990-1992;

co-founder and director of two cellular telecommunications companies, 1982-1987;

deputy administrator, U.S. Veterans Administration, 1981-1982;

manager of government affairs, Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., 1977-1980;

assistant to Rep. John Y. McCollister, R-Neb., 1971-1977;

newscaster and talk-show host in Nebraska, 1969-1971;

Army, including service in Vietnam, 1967-1968.

JOHN O. BRENNAN

AGE: 57

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree, political science, Fordham University, 1977; master’s degree, government, University of Texas at Austin, 1980.

EXPERIENCE:

Assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, 2009-present;

president and CEO of The Analysis Corporation, McLean, Va., 2005-08;

interim director of the National Counterterrorism Center, 2004-2005;

director of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, 2003-2004;

CIA deputy executive director, 2001-2003.

WASHINGTON - Digging in for a fight, President Obama riled Senate Republicans and some Democrats on Monday by nominating former senator and combat veteran Chuck Hagel to lead the Pentagon and anti-terrorism chief John Brennan as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Hagel and Brennan, in separate Senate confirmation hearings, will face sharp questions on a range of contentious issues, including U.S. policy about Israel and Iran, targeted drone attacks and harsh interrogation tactics. Of the two men, Hagel is expected to face a tougher path, though both are likely to be confirmed.

Maine's two U.S. senators, Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King, both serve on committees that will hold confirmation hearings on the two nominees. Collins and King did not indicate a position on either Hagel or Brennan in statements released by their offices Monday, although Collins expressed concerns about some of Hagel's past remarks.

"I know Sen. Hagel well from having served with him in the Senate. He is a friend of mine," Collins said. "I do have some concerns with some of his statements on Iran, Hamas, and Israel. I'm sure that those issues will be explored in his confirmation hearing. As always, I will reserve judgment until that hearing is complete."

Collins said she has worked closely with Brennan on cybersecurity and other issues, noting that she has known the nominee since he headed what is now the National Counterterrorism Center. But she, again, said she will "reserve judgment" on his nomination. Collins serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which will review Brennan's nomination.

"I look forward to meeting with Mr. Brennan and questioning him about several controversial issues related to the CIA, including the increasingly paramilitary activities of the spy agency, such as the use of armed drones," she said.

King, an independent who is caucusing with the Democrats, will have an opportunity to participate in the confirmation hearings for both men.

"Sen. Hagel and Mr. Brennan both have distinguished records of public service, and as a member of the Armed Services Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence, I look forward to thoroughly reviewing their records and hearing their respective testimonies during the confirmation process," King said. "I will make decisions on these nominations at the conclusion of the committee processes."

With respect to presidential nominations, however, King said he believes the chief executive "should have significant latitude in appointing members of his own Cabinet and that executive branch candidates deserve the opportunity to have their qualifications fully and fairly evaluated."

Hagel would be the first enlisted soldier and first Vietnam veteran to head the Pentagon.

"These two leaders have dedicated their lives to protecting our country," Obama said, standing alongside them and the men they would succeed during a ceremony in the White House East Room. "I urge the Senate to confirm them as soon as possible so we can keep our nation secure and the American people safe."

For Obama, a pair of combative confirmation hearings could turn into a distraction as he opens his second term. But the president signaled he was ready to take that risk.

Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, has been criticized as hostile toward Israel and soft on Iran. Opponents also have highlighted his 1998 comments about an ambassador nominee whom he called "openly, aggressively gay" -- a comment for which he recently apologized.

Brennan, a 25-year CIA veteran, was under consideration to run the agency after Obama won the 2008 election but withdrew his name amid criticism from liberal activists who questioned his connection to the harsh interrogation techniques used by the CIA during the George W. Bush administration.

(Continued on page 2)

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