WASHINGTON (AP) — John Brennan took over Friday as CIA director, the finishing touch on President Barack Obama’s national security team for his second term.
The White House said Vice President Joe Biden swore Brennan in during a private ceremony a day after he won Senate confirmation amid a contentious debate that included one Republican senator’s 13-hour speech in an effort to delay a vote. Republicans lifted their delay after the administration bowed to their requests for clarification about the president’s power in using drone strikes.
Brennan joins Chuck Hagel, who won Senate confirmation to be defense secretary, and Secretary of State John Kerry as Obama advisers on security.
Brennan, a 25-year CIA veteran, had been Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser. He replaces Michael Morell, the deputy director who had been in charge since David Petraeus resigned in November after acknowledging an affair with his biographer.
The government’s drone program and its use in the fight against terrorists were at the heart of the dispute over Brennan.
Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday sent a one-paragraph letter to Sen. Rand Paul, who had held the floor for nearly 13 hours on Wednesday and into Thursday.
“It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: ‘Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?” Holder wrote Paul.
“The answer to that question is no.”
That cleared the way for the vote.
Military hawks in the Senate, such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham, argued that Paul’s claims were unfounded.
Graham expressed incredulity that Republicans would criticize Obama on a policy that Republican President George W. Bush enforced.
“People are astonished that President Obama is doing many of the things that President Bush did,” Graham said. “I’m not astonished. I congratulate him for having the good judgment to understand we’re at war. And to my party, I’m a bit disappointed that you no longer apparently think we’re at war.”
Associated Press writers Donna Cassata, Robert Burns, Andrew Taylor, Richard Lardner and David Espo contributed to this report.