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Hagel Nominated to Run Pentagon, Brennan Picked to Helm CIA

The outgoing ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, John McCain of Arizona, congratulated Hagel on Monday, but said he had reservations about the choice.

“I have serious concerns about positions Senator Hagel has taken on a range of critical national security issues in recent years, which we will fully consider in the course of his confirmation process before the Senate Armed Services Committee,” McCain said.

James M. Inhofe, the incoming ranking Republican on Senate Armed Services — which will hold the confirmation hearing for Hagel — said Monday the nomination deserves to be “fully vetted.”

“I am aware of the serious concerns about some of his policy positions, his record, and some of his comments that have been publicly reported,” Inhofe said in a written statement. “I will be seeking clarification from him about these concerns as his nomination proceeds.”

An Insider for CIA

Brennan has been the president’s counterterrorism adviser in his first term after spending decades at the CIA. Expect an airing of questions about the CIA’s extensive use of drones as a weapon of targeted assassination of terrorist targets. His current post at the White House includes the lead role in coordinating targeting decisions for drone strikes overseas.

“He has worked to embed our efforts in a strong legal framework. He understands we are a nation of laws,” Obama said. “In moments of debate and decision, he asks the tough questions and he insists on high and rigorous standards.”

The president and Brennan also spoke about there desire to have transparency — up to a point — and to have a good relationship with Congress on national security.

Brennan said he would ensure the CIA upholds “the liberties, the freedoms and the values that we hold so dear.”

Obama had originally contemplated naming Brennan to head the CIA at the start of his first term, but settled instead on Leon E. Panetta after some liberals who criticized Brennan’s past remarks on controversial George W. Bush administration surveillance and interrogation policies.

Brennan could also face some tough questions from Republicans, who could use his confirmation hearing to attack the Obama administration on several national security issues.

“The Obama administration has an abysmal record of national security and intelligence leaks when it benefits the president’s agenda,” Inhofe said, reacting to Brennan’s selection. “And, the tragedy in Benghazi still pose many questions that have not been adequately answered for those of us in Congress and for the American people.”

But the chairwoman in the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., praised the choice.

“Clearly, Mr. Brennan has the qualifications and expertise to be the next CIA Director,” she said in a written statement. “He has longstanding knowledge of the operations of this critical agency and also the strength to see that it follows the law.”

If confirmed, Brennan would take over the CIA after the resignation of its previous director, David E. Petraeus, over an extramarital affair with his biographer.

Emily Cadei contributed to this report.

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