John Brennan, nominated to lead the CIA, is one of the few administration officials who has publicly supported the use of controversial interrogation techniques and drone strikes.
In White House councils, John Brennan has been privy to the most secret U.S. intelligence programs. Outwardly, he has been the administration's most public defender of one of President Barack Obama's most controversial practices -- the expanded use of armed drone aircraft to kill terrorism suspects overseas.
This is the second time that Obama has sought to put Brennan at the helm of the CIA, and his confirmation process is likely to revisit old controversies over U.S. counterterrorism measures undertaken by the administrations of Obama and George W. Bush.
Brennan, a 25-year CIA veteran, withdrew his name from consideration as Obama's first director of the agency in November 2008 following liberals' criticism that he had done too little to condemn the use by the Bush administration of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding, widely considered torture.
This time around, Brennan's defense of targeted killing by drones is likely to provide additional fodder for critics, although barring new revelations, he appears likely to be confirmed.
Deprived of the CIA post four years ago, Brennan, 57, became instead one of Obama's closest advisors on counterterrorism and homeland security. That proximity has made him a more powerful figure in the administration than the director of national intelligence - who will become his boss if he is confirmed.
Brennan, who grew up in New Jersey, is described by those who know him as a "straight arrow" and man of high morals.
"The word for John is 'intense'," said A.B. "Buzzy" Krongard, a former top CIA official who was once Brennan's boss there. "John's all about commitment."
His long working hours at the CIA and the White House are legendary. Obama, in announcing Brennan's nomination on Monday, quipped: "I'm not sure he's slept in four years."
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