Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) is threatening to block John Brennan's nomination as CIA chief until the completion of federal and congressional investigations into unauthorized leaks of classified information by the White House.
“John Brennan has not been absolved of responsibility for the slew of high-level security leaks that have characterized this White House,” Cornyn said in a statement issued Monday, shortly after Obama announced Brennan’s nomination.
A spate of leaks detailing classified U.S. counterterrorism operations made their way into U.S. and international media outlets in recent months and are under investigation by the Justice Department.
The leaks have included information about a U.S. cyberattack on Iran, a terrorist “kill list” and a double agent operating in Yemen.
Senate intelligence committee members also have opened an investigation into what information CIA officials provided to the makers of the film "Zero Dark Thirty," which dramatizes the search for Osama bin Laden.
The Defense Department’s Inspector General is also looking into possible leaks of classified information by Pentagon officials working with filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal.
GOP lawmakers, including Cornyn, have repeatedly accused administration officials — particularly Brennan — of orchestrating the leaks for political gain.
The White House counterterror chief himself has been accused of disclosing information publicly on the use of American drones to take out terror leaders in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen.
In August, Brennan fired back at such criticisms during a speech at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations.
Unauthorized leaks of sensitive information regarding American-led counterterrorism operations have “absolutely” damaged U.S. national security, Brennan said at the time.
“It's unconscionable what has gone out. And the president has made his displeasure abundantly clear to his senior team,” he said during the August speech.
Brennan characterized the partisan attacks against the White House on the issue of intelligence leaks as “highly irresponsible.”
“It's easy to get up in front of a TV camera, quite frankly, and point fingers at the White House and say they're doing it for this or that,” Brennan said, regarding the onslaught of GOP attacks against the White House over the issue. “What we need to do is to make sure that we are dealing with these issues in a very serious manner because the national security of the United States is at risk.”
Brennan is expected to come under tough questioning on a host of issues.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he has “many questions and concerns” over the so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques that Brennan and other intelligence officials helped oversee during the Bush years. Critics say those techniques amounted to torture.
“I plan to examine this aspect of Mr. Brennan’s record very closely as I consider his nomination,” McCain said in a statement issued Monday.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee that will weigh the nomination, said Brennan has the “qualifications and expertise” to be CIA director.
But Feinstein also said she would bring up the committee's recent review of the Bush-era interrogation techniques and ask Brennan “how he would respond to the [review's] findings and conclusions.”
—Jeremy Herb contributed