Former CIA Director John Brennan kicked off the second day of panels at the 2017 SALT Conference Thursday. Brennan spoke with CNN analyst Lara Logan in a session titled, “Truth & Consequences: A Discussion on War, Terror, & Global Threats.”
Brennan explained that the United States has never had control of the internet, and advocated that we adopt standards that enable the government to ensure greater cyber security protection for a society that is growing more dependent on the digital world.
Brennan also commented on North Korea and its leader Kim Jung-Un.
“He’s someone who very much has a mind of his own. He doesn’t play with the mindset of his father and grandfather,” Brennan said. He argued that Kim Jung-Un is frustrating China for playing by his own rules and frustrating the international community by demanding that his nation be recognized as a nuclear state. To reduce the nuclear ambitions, Brennan argues that economic sanctions on institutions engaged in financial activity with the rogue nation.
Other notes from Brennan’s discussion:
- During the panel, CNN analyst Lara Logan suggested that the Obama administration had given a massive amount of money to Iran, which would allow the nation to sponsor terrorism again. But Brennan refuted that notion, arguing that Iran wants to be recognized by the international community. Brennan argued that the international community needs to focus on empowering moderates in the Middle East in the years ahead to reduce the influence of hardliners and extremists.
- Brennan called the Arab Spring a preview of events to come in the future. He argued that overthrowing dictators with the hope of allowing democracy to flourish can be naive. He argued that hardliners were able to rise in areas like Egypt and Iraq after removing authoritarians. While he said he doesn’t want to leave authoritarians in place, he said that leaders need to be aware of the consequences that follow. He suggested that leaders underestimated the impact of self-serving authoritarians on the broader population when a leadership vacuum exists.
- Logan asked Brennan how much he wished he could have sent in a team to “put a bullet in the brain” of Assad in Syria. Brennan looked uncomfortable and said he would “answer the premise of the question.” Brennan said the country required new leadership and transition, but argued that Russia has prevented international action. Brennan said that Vladimir Putin recognized that there were limits to what the United States would do (to which Logan replied “Nothing.”)
- Brennan said that one of his biggest regrets was watching Syria fall and not being able to do enough to stop a slide that will last a very long time.
- On Edward Snowden, Brennan referred to the former analyst as a traitor and said he needed to be brought to justice.
- Brennan says that the Russia leak problem involving the Trump administration was compounded by what is being leaked to the press. He said that the real damage wasn’t the conversations that Trump had with Russian officials. Instead, he worried that leaks to the press about U.S. intelligence practices are dangerous.