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The Lethal Bureaucrat

Author: Micah Zenko, Douglas Dillon Fellow
September 11, 2012
Foreign Policy

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No politically appointed official in U.S. history has played such a prominent role in killing so many people outside of a war zone as John Brennan. He has been a "close advisor" to President Barack Obama since November 2008, was a Team Lead for the president-elect's review of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), and has served as homeland security advisor and deputy national security advisor for counterterrorism, with the rank of assistant to the president, since the first day Obama entered office. Brennan does not merely fill a White House position, but also meets with the president several times a day and -- according to administration officials -- serves as "a priest whose blessing has become indispensable to Obama."

Brennan plays the essential role in shaping and implementing Obama's vision for protecting the United States, its allies, and its interests from politically motivated violence. The predominant counterterrorism tool under Obama has been targeted killings in non-battlefield settings, and Brennan reportedly oversees and manages the 100-person inter-agency process that nominates and vets suspected militants and terrorists for the United States' various kill lists -- implemented by the CIA and Joint Special Operations Command. Obama's has been a "lethal presidency," and Brennan is the Lethal Bureaucrat. Despite his close relationship to Obama and preeminent duty in coordinating the kill lists, he flies largely under the mainstream media's radar.

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