Obama picks new CIA chief, defence secy

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • |
  • Updated: Jan 08, 2013 00:46 IST

US President Barack Obama on Monday named Chuck Hagel as his nominee as the next secretary of defense and counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan to head the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

"Chuck Hagel is the leader our troops deserve," President Obama said presenting his nominees at the White House, flanked by them and the men they are to replace.

Both appointments must be confirmed by the US Senate. And there are signs that it is neither is going to have a smooth passage, though no one has threatened yet to block them.

Hagel, a moderate former Republican senator from Nebraska, has been attacked by Republicans for being soft on Iran.

He prefers diplomatic efforts to end Iran's nuclear programme, and has sought a larger role for that country in stabilizing Afghanistan.

He has also rankled the pro-Israel lobby by speaking about a "Jewish lobby". But White House officials have said he would be completely in line with the administration on both.

As White House counter terrorism czar Brennan closely leads the Drone programme and was involved in the planning on the raid that killed Osama bin Laden last May.

An earlier attempt by Obama to nominate Brennan to the same job failed when the latter came under fire for alleged role in the spy agency's enhanced interrogation techniques.

Brennan, who spent a quarter of a century in the CIA, had withdrawn his name but had denied any responsibility for those interrogation techniques.

"The issue has been removed from the debate because the president and John Brennan, as his top counterterrorism adviser, brought those techniques to an end," Ben Rhodes, a top Obama aide, told the Associated Press.

There was no word yet on who will replace Brennan in a role that some see as the most crucial in the intelligence community, with an oversight on all security agencies.

The CIA top job fell vacant when David Petraeus resigned late last year admitting to an affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell.


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