President Barack Obama will nominate John Brennan, his counterterrorism chief, as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
Vietor said the nomination of Brennan would come today at the same event where the president names former U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel as his choice for defense secretary. The announcement is scheduled for 1 p.m.
Brennan, 57, has deep roots in the CIA, having worked for decades in its collection, covert action and analytic units. He was a CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia and served as deputy executive director of the agency under President George W. Bush. He has conducted the daily security briefing for Obama for the past four years.
As deputy national security adviser for homeland security and counterterrorism, Brennan helped plan and advise in the killing of Osama bin Laden. An expert on the Middle East, he has overseen the efforts to destroy al Qaeda’s affiliates in such places as Somalia and navigate the challenges of the Arab Spring uprising.
“For four years, he has seen the president every day, and been by his side for some of his toughest decisions, including the decision to launch the bin Laden raid,” according to a White House statement, and he is as close to Obama as any member of the White House national security team.
Within the U.S., Brennan has been responsible for homeland security, boosting aviation screening and refining terrorist watch lists, and has supervised the government’s response to a wide variety of concerns, such as tornadoes, cyber threats and Hurricane Sandy.
Brennan was with the CIA in various positions from 1980 to 2005. Before joining the White House national security staff, he was president and chief executive of the Analysis Corporation of McLean, Virginia, from 2005 to 2008.
Widely seen as the front-runner to head the agency at the start of Obama’s first term, he withdrew his name from consideration after Democratic activists expressed concerns over his ties to the agency’s “enhanced interrogation” tactics employed in the Bush administration.
In an October 2008 interview, Brennan, who has served under presidents of both parties, said he opposes waterboarding, or simulated drowning, and any other interrogation practices that used torture. The CIA was criticized for using waterboarding on three terrorist suspects and has since discontinued the practice.