Five things we learned from John Brennan's confirmation hearing
John Brennan at Senate confirmation hearing to be CIA Director
February 7th, 2013
11:06 PM ET

Five things we learned from John Brennan's confirmation hearing

By Pam Benson

John Brennan came well-prepared Thursday and held his own during questioning at his Senate confirmation hearing to become the 21st director of the Central Intelligence Agency. It was in stark contrast to what was considered by many as an ill-prepared, lethargic performance by defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel at his confirmation hearing last week.

Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee mostly grilled Brennan about his knowledge of the CIA's controversial interrogation and detention program and the lethal targeting of suspected terrorists. Republicans tended to focus on leaks of secret information about counterterrorism activities.

While on one hand Brennan was forceful with his answers, on the other he seemed very careful with his choice of words.

Here are five things we learned from the hearing:

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Filed under: Brennan • CIA • Security Brief
February 7th, 2013
01:52 PM ET

White House opposed plan backed by Pentagon, State, CIA to arm Syrian rebels

By Elise Labott and Adam Levine

The White House knocked down a proposal last summer from top national security leaders, including then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and CIA Director David Petraeus, to arm Syrian rebels, according to U.S. officials, one of whom said the issue appears dead for now.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey said in testimony to a Senate committee on Thursday that they also backed the plan to provide weapons to opposition fighters.

But officials, who requested anonymity to speak freely about a sensitive subject, said the White House rejected the idea.

"The reason we have not armed them is because the White House has no appetite for it," a U.S. official familiar with the deliberations told CNN.

The official said the ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, was among those in the State Department who "advocated for it pretty strongly."

The issue of arming the rebels "is dead in the water for now because folks are resigned to the fact that White House will not budge," the official added.

The Obama administration has resisted arming the rebels, citing concerns about the infiltration of extremists groups who could possibly use those weapons against other targets.

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Filed under: Middle East • Military • Syria