When news broke that counterterrorism adviser John Brennan would be President Obama's nominee to head the CIA, CNN was mum about Brennan's admitted failure concerning the attempted Christmas Day bombing in 2009. As NewsBusters reported earlier, none of the major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) mentioned Brennan's "I let him [Obama] down" press conference following the intelligence breakdown at the attack.
CNN highlighted Brennan's strengths along with his controversies on Monday, but those were mostly liberal gripes about his record on enhanced interrogation and drone strikes. "Brennan has been criticized for his connection to the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques under the Bush administration, more recently, for his support of the controversial drone program in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere," reported Wolf Blitzer.
After the 2009 Christmas Day near-disaster, where an armed terrorist successfully boarded a plane and tried and failed to detonate his explosives as the plane was descending to Detroit, Brennan took responsibility for the intelligence failure and said in a press conference, "I told the President today I let him down."
Foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty didn't have a harsh word for the pick. "You know, he's a heavy-hitter. He's been in this for a long time," Dougherty said of Brennan on Monday's Starting Point. "He really knows what he's talking about."
In his report, Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence only briefly mentioned criticism of Brennan and the Obama administration's national security leaks, that they would surface in the hearings: "So will accusations Brennan helped manipulate leaks to boost the administration's national security credentials."
National security analyst Peter Bergen mentioned the Christmas Day attempted bombing but in the context of drone strikes. He glossed over Brennan's culpability for the intelligence failure:
"Well, Suzanne, as you know, he [Brennan] has been the principal architect, arguably, of the drone policy, particularly in Yemen. John Brennan has traveled to Yemen seven times since the Christmas Day attempt by al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen to bring down Northwest Flight 253 over Detroit. And we, at the New America Foundation, where I work in addition to CNN, track drone strikes. And we have found that just as the drone program in Pakistan is going down rather dramatically compared to its high in 2010, it's expanding very rapidly in Yemen. There was one strike, for instance, that we can tell, two years ago and there were probably around – at least 46 in this past year. So he has presided over this policy and surely it will be a discussion at his confirmation hearing, whatever you think of it, either negatively or positively."
"Well, I actually think that Brennan is probably going to have a much easier time than Chuck Hagel," said chief political analyst Gloria Borger. "I think there are questions about how he felt about enhanced interrogation techniques, as we call them, otherwise known as torture, during the Bush administration."
She added that "there's also a question of have we been using drones too much. There are a lot of Democrats who believe that we've – we are using drones too much".
Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr did bring up Benghazi: "He [Brennan] may well be the next person up in front of the TV cameras, in front of the committees to talk about Benghazi."