CIA chief’s emails exposed: Key things we learned from WikiLeaks’ Brennan dump

CIA Director John Brennan © Gretchen Ert
WikiLeaks is at it again, this time releasing the contents of CIA Director John Brennan’s personal email account after it was allegedly hacked by a teenager. The documents address multiple issues, including torture, relations with Iran, and more.

READ MORE: Leaked documents from CIA director’s email reveal thoughts on torture, Iran, Afghanistan

A group calling itself only “Crackas With Attitude” claimed responsibility for the hack, which it allegedly carried out as a form of protest against US foreign policy. But while little is known about the hackers, a lot was revealed about Brennan. Here are the key things that became public when WikiLeaks published the documents.

Now it’s personal

  • The first document WikiLeaks published is Brennan’s Draft SF86 form, which asks for a variety of personal information and is required for individuals to obtain national security clearances. The document lists Brennan’s passport number, phone number, and home address, along with details such as his weight and height. It shows that Brennan answered affirmatively when asked if he had ever “consulted with a mental health professional,” though it does not detail why.
  • Additionally, personal details relating to Brennan’s wife (including her Social Security number and birth date), children, and siblings were listed in the form. The names and contact information of people who know Brennan, including their addresses and phone numbers, were also listed. One individual was former CIA Director George Tenet, who served under George W. Bush.
  • Notably, the SF86 form is the same kind of document that was stolen when hackers breached the systems of the Office of Personnel Management. The personal data of millions of government employees were exposed in that hack.

Iran a ‘pawn of global politics’

  • One of the more interesting leaked documents is titled “The Conundrum of Iran,” which only looks partially completed, but nonetheless lays out Brennan’s views on the Middle Eastern nation at a time before he joined the Obama administration. He highlights the 1953 CIA-organized coup against Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh as an example of Iran being made “a pawn of global politics.” He also called President Bush’s inclusion of Iran in a so-called axis of evil “gratuitous.”
  • Brennan also highlighted “Iran’s positive engagement in helping repair the post-Taliban political environment in Afhganistan,” though he said this had been unappreciated by the Bush administration.
  • He added that Iran would become “a major player on the world stage” and an important piece in terms of regional stability. Brennan said the US should “tone down the rhetoric” against the country and establish a “direct dialogue” with Tehran.

Sour grapes: Brennan’s TAC complains over CIA snub

  • During his time in the private sector, Brennan established an intelligence firm called The Analysis Corporation (TAC) that competed for government contracts, including one related to terrorist watch lists. However, things didn’t turn out so rosy for Brennan’s company when the CIA snubbed its proposal for the project, calling it a risky investment.
  • In a document sent by the CIA to the Government Accountability Office, the CIA criticized TAC for “disingenuous” behavior, saying its proposal had received four less than satisfactory evaluations out of seven. It classified the proposal as “Medium High” risk. All the other proposals it had received were granted seven satisfactory ratings, and so TAC was taken out of the running.
  • The document shows that, while TAC protested the decision, the CIA insisted the company’s proposal was inferior, at one point saying that one claim made in it was “demonstrably false.”

US government ‘engaged’ in spying activities on US soil

  • A 2007 draft position paper on the role of the intelligence community in the wake of the 9/11 attacks shows that Brennan was already aware that numerous federal agencies – the FBI, CIA, NSA, Defense Department and Homeland Security – “are all engaged in intelligence activities on US soil.” He said these activities “must be consistent with our laws and reflect the democratic principles and values of our Nation.”
  • Brennan added that the president and Congress need “clear mandates” and “firm criteria” to determine what limits need to be placed on domestic intelligence operations.
  • When it comes to situations beyond US borders, Brennan said sometimes action must be taken overseas “to address real and emerging threats to our interests,” and that they may need to be done “under the cover of secrecy.” He argued that many covert CIA actions have resulted in “major contributions” to US policy goals.

Debate over torture restrictions

  • WikiLeaks published two documents related to the CIA’s use of so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques, though notably neither was written by Brennan.
  • One was written by then-Senator Kit Bond (R-Missouri), vice chairman on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which outlined a proposal to limit the CIA’s torture techniques without restricting the development of new techniques complying with the law.
  • The document suggests listing the types of techniques that the CIA is barred from using instead of restricting the agency to only those explicitly listed in the Army Field Manual.

  • Some of the techniques Bond suggested that Congress ban included: forcing the detainee to be naked; forcing them to perform sexual acts; waterboarding; inducing hypothermia; conducting mock executions; and depriving detainees of food, water, or medical care.

Bond’s suggestions get a bill

  • The final document appears to show Bond’s suggestions making their way into a legislative proposal titled “Limitations on Interrogation Techniques Act of 2008.”
  • The bill prohibited the use of many of the same techniques listed in the previous document, though it was not passed. Ultimately, President Obama issued an executive order banning officials from using techniques not in the Army Field Manual.

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