Martin Bashir | February 08, 2013
>>> we start on a day where up to three feet of snow and winds nearing hurricane strength are expected to batter the northeast, and we'll have much more on that throughout the broadcast. but we begin in washington where we are awaiting the president to speak at a farewell tribute to defense secretary leon panetta in washington . it's a ceremony marked by a 19- gun salute , an inspection of troops, and all accompanied by the united states pershing zone army band. general martin dempsey spoke first and he will soon be followed by the president. all to honor the man whom on thursday senator barbara mackowski said was the one person as cia director who never jerked her around. this comes a day after john brennan , the man who hopes to be the next cia director , walked into a volatile confirmation hearing room full of protests and pointed questions over torture, ren dation, adition, and the targeted killings in the war on proper.
>> i think there's a misimpression on the part of some american people who believe we take strikes to punish terrorists for past transgressions. nothing could be further from the truth. we only take such actions as a last resort to save lives when there's no other alternative to taking an action that's going to mitigate that threat.
>> mr. brennan took pointed questions from democrats and republicans alike. but it was the republicans most eager to press mr. brennan on areas other than policy. and on that count, mr. brennan not only parried, he pushed back.
>> it is possible to put out an authorized leak, is that correct?
>> no, those are oxymorons, authorized leak.
>> for more we first now go to nbc's luke russert who is live for us at the white house . luke, i want to get to the brennan hearing in a moment. but, first, the president wants to replace secretary panetta -- the man he wants to replace panetta with, chuck hagel , is having his confirmation held up. now, can you explain inwhat this is about? what's happened?
>> reporter: sure. well, the vote for chuck hagel to be confirmed has to come out of the senate armed services committee , and republicans there have asked mr. hagel for really some intense background questions as to whether or not he has been paid by any company that has dealings with foreign companies in the last five years. they want to have all the records about anything that he's been paid $5,000 or more through speeches or various things over the last few years. karl kevin thoucarl levin though, who has been the ranking member for 26 years, says this has been unprecedented by republicans. they're really going after all this information because they simply want to delay mr. hagel . he released a letter today that said mr. hagel 's nomination will move forward next week. hopefully be voted out of committee. that's what democrats feel. and they held the numbers there, 14-12, so they believe it will go forward. but, i mean, the letter speaks for itself. levin claiming that he's never seen these types of questions asked for democrats or republicans through the armed services committee over the last 26 years.
>> pretty typical though for republicans of late. now to john brennan . what's been the reaction from the white house after his confirmation hearing? because we know that there was some concern about the way chuck hagel performed. how does the white house feel about how things went with mr. brennan ?
>> reporter: well, talking to folks, the democrats here in d.c., there is a lot of confidence in brennan 's performance because it's the complete opposite of hagel . they felt brennan looked self-assured. he gave a spirited defense to the administration's policies and most importantly he was also humble. he said there should be more information put forward in terms of when these drone strikes occur if civilians are injured. this hearing for mr. brennan also sort of placated a lot of democrats on that committee because the white house released papers from the department of justice explaining the legal rationale behind the drone strikes. so overall, the feel something that john brennan performed admirably, that he will move forward and he will be a good director of the cia . they felt that the committee hearing went as well as it could be. what's interesting, martin, john brennan has 25 years experience at the cia and that's really what we've heard. he's the most experienced person to take over the cia in quite some time. no one should stand in the way of that.
>> okay, luke russert there in washington . thanks so much, luke. let's get right to our panel now. from washington karen finney, a columnist with the hill, and michael o'hanlon, senior foreign policy fellows at the brookings institution . welcome to you both. mike, if i can start with you. in addition to the many other responsibilities that you yourself carry, you're also a member of the cia 's external advisory board . are you satisfied with john brennan 's responses, particularly in relation to the drone program?
>> well, you know, martin, i do think we need checks and balances in our system, and i think groping towards the right way to handle a question of whether it be drones or some other kind of use of force , the broader question here is using force in a country where we haven't before or against a person we haven't before, possibly an american citizen when you have got this very broad authorization on the use of force against an enemy that's very generally defined going back to the 2001 legislation. so it's bigger than any one technology that might be used. but, no, i'm not totally comfortable yet, martin. i still wonder if we need some kind of internal executive branch but totally independent check. in other words, some kind of a special court or a special counsel who has independent authority to stop a strike or at least advise strongly against it and require additional vetting. i'm not sure we're totally at the place we need to be on this. it's understandable it would be hard and it's understandable we don't want to have completely open scrutiny outside of the executive branch when it's a war-time operation, but i'm still groping for the right answer.
>> karen , i want to play an exchange between marco rubio and mr. brennan . it's an he can change that starts with mr. rubio demanding answers for why the u.s. was not able to interrogate a suspect in the benghazi attacks, and he was briefly held by tunisia. take a listen to this.
>> tunisians did not have a basis in their law to hold him.
>> so they released him.
>> they did.
>> where is he? we don't know.
>> he's still in tunisia.
>> that doesn't sound like a good system of working with our foreign partners.
>> it shows the tunisians are working with their rule of law like we do.
>> i know mr. rubio wants to sound ready for responsibility and if he's got some very strong testicles, but dismissing the rules and practices of a foreign nation, that's hardly the most mature way to approach international terrorism , is it?
>> oh, martin, that's poppycock. come on. we should have been able to force the tunisian government to do exactly what we wanted them to do.
>> we're not even in any kind of conflict with the tunisian --
>> i'm kidding, of course. while marco rubio was trying and similarly we saw this in the hearing with hillary clinton , he was trying very hard to show that he is in command of the facts and he is ready to be, you know, presidential and handle this kind of information, and, instead, what he actually showed, particularly if you watch there's a little bit more to that exchange and it really shows how little he understands about how our relationships with foreign governments work, about how -- the role of the cia because there's this whole question -- part of what brennan had been talking about was whether or not this is a role the cia should continue to play in this instance. so instead he really revealed how little he understands and how hard he's trying to prove to all of us that he is -- he's got his big boy pants on.
>> yes, indeed. mike, anyone who lost a family member in the attacks of 9/11 which were planned overseas is not going to have any problem with killing potential terrorists in afghanistan or in the yemen. but don't we need to confront the fact that if this is our strategy, then there is unlikely to be an end to this conflict because in places like pakistan, for example, where you have great expertise, there is something like 80 million young men where youth unemployment hovers around 20%, where literacy is barely over 25%. there is no shortage of people joining up for the jihad against america, is there?
>> i think you're right, martin. which is why to build on my point a minute ago, i think we do need to keep working towards the ideal system for checks and balances within our own government on how to authorize these decisions because even if we have, as i believe, a president, an incoming cia director , others who are competent and trustworthy and experienced on this question now, we could imagine a situation in five or ten years when someone else is pulling the trigger, perhaps in a different country, against a group that calls itself or that we designated as an al qaeda affiliate but who knows if we will make equally well-reasoned judgments. i'm not sure i want somebody to have veto power but i think i want somebody looking over it, potentially interceding in some way. somebody who is independent of the immediate appointees of the president at that time. and that's why i'm uncomfortable, feel like we need to do better than we've done so far.
>> karen ?
>> also i think part of what we're seeing here is, you know, yet again how dramatically events are changing and the nature of warfare is changing and the nature of how we -- the tools we have at our disposal and the challenges that we're confronting in terms of how do we do this in a way that is consistent with our values but that also ensures we're keeping people safe? even from the time of bush to now, president obama , tactics have shifted. tactics on the other side have shifted. again, i think to michael 's point, part of the reason we should have this kind of outside verification process is because as the needs change, we need to make sure that we're still staying consistent with some core values .
>> karen finney and michael o'hanlon, brilliant, thank you both.