Brennan’s CIA faces looming fights with Congress, Pentagon

Securing Senate confirmation may have been the easy part for new CIA chief John Brennan, who is now facing a series of seemingly tough battles with Congress and other government agencies while trying to steer the agency into a new, post-Afghanistan era.

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Lawmakers confirmed the former White House counterterrorism chief as the nation's new top spy on Thursday, by a vote of 63-34.

Brennan's bid to replace former CIA Director David Petraeus, who stepped down last year amid a sex scandal involving biographer Paula Broadwell, was delayed three times -- twice by members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and by a 13-hour filibuster by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

Paul railed against the administration's armed drone program during the filibuster, in which he questioned whether the United States had the legal authority to kill American citizens on U.S. soil via drone strikes.

Those congressional blocks -- from the drone program to the White House's response to last September's terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya -- were temporarily resolved, ending with Brennan being sworn in as CIA chief in Friday.

But those issues are sure to re-emerge as Brennan assumes control at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Va.

Senators will get their first shot at the new CIA director when Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and other top military and intelligence officials testify before the Senate intelligence panel on Tuesday.

The hearing will focus on the current range of threats facing the United States and its allies abroad.

Aside from the drone program, Brennan is sure to face continued questions Tuesday over his role in the White House's decision to initially label the terror attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi as a protest gone awry.

The attack ended with the deaths of four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Only weeks later did the Obama administration admit the Benghazi raid was the work of Islamic militants in the country.

Recently disclosed White House documents on the attack and its aftermath clearly show Brennan's participation in crafting the protest scenario. It was the CIA chief's efforts on Benghazi that led the Senate panel to block his confirmation twice.

GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and John McCain (Ariz.) abandoned plans to block the nomination before the full Senate over Benghazi, but Graham said he would continue to press the issue once Brennan was confirmed.

Along with Benghazi, Senate intelligence panel member are likely to press Brennan on whether to declassify the committee's review of the agency's interrogation program, which critics argue was tantamount to torture.

While at CIA during the George W. Bush administration, Brennan shepherded the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" -- such as waterboarding, stress positions and sleep deprivation -- into CIA counterterrorism operations.

The Senate intelligence panel approved the nearly 6,000-page report on CIA interrogation operations last December. The Obama administration has yet to approve a declassified version of the review.

“The report uncovers startling details about the CIA detention and interrogation program and raises critical questions about intelligence operations and oversight,” panel chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in a statement.

During his confirmation hearing in February, Brennan admitted to the panel that doubted whether the enhanced techniques used in the CIA interrogation program ever produced any viable intelligence against al Qaeda or other terror groups.

President Obama banned the use of the controversial interrogation techniques as one of his first acts in the White House.

As Brennan's CIA tackles these issues with Congress, the agency could be facing another Washington turf battle, this time with the Defense Department (DOD).

The Pentagon's new internal intelligence agency, the Defense Clandestine Service (DCS), debuted its website on the Defense Intelligence Agency's (DIA) website in January.

Funding for the new DOD intelligence wing was included in the final Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2013 approved by Congress last year, despite initial skepticism of the new office by lawmakers.

Initially, the primary mission of DCS will be to home in on potential, long-term threats posed by China, North Korea and Iran while continuing to support the intelligence needs of combat troops in Afghanistan and elsewhere across the globe.

As part of their mission, DCS officials will focus on human intelligence collection — known as HUMINT in military and intelligence circles — which has traditionally been the domain of the CIA and other organizations in the intelligence community.

While the new DSC could prove to be a boon for American intelligence efforts across the globe, the new organization could put Brennan's CIA at odds with the Pentagon's new chief, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

But DIA spokesman, Lt. Col. Thomas Veale, told The Hill the DCS was designed to "optimize" the Pentagon's role in U.S. intelligence operations, not usurp CIA or other agencies in the intelligence community.

The DCS will delineate "DOD's HUMINT contribution to the national intelligence effort through better integration" with CIA and other agencies, Veale said.

The new DOD intelligence service "did not involve significant new manpower or resources, did not involve new authorities, nor is it duplicative" of current intelligence capabilities, he said. "It is a complement," Veale added.

However, DIA commander Lt. Gen Michael Flynn told Congress in February that DCS does provide "unique military access and proficiencies" that cannot be duplicated by CIA or others.

"While our collection is a vital component of what we do, the foundation of DIA's mission is to provide all sorts of defense intelligence analysis in support of our warfighters, our military services, our joint staff, and our nation's policymakers," Flynn said at the time.