11/09/2022, Jessica Cuevas
Approximately once a month, LEAP takes a group of students to Houston to attend a World Affairs Council event. For the month of November, this event happened to be a discussion about U.S. Intelligence and National Security with the Fifth Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director John Brennan, and Stephen B. Slick, the Director of the Intelligence Studies Project at UT Austin and former CIA Agent. Introducing them was Ambassador David Satterfield, making the group on hand about as knowledgeable on foreign policy as any three people could be.
This combination proved to be as interesting as it sounds, and made even a bit more interesting with the inclusion of several freshmen LEAP participants, including Adisen Massie, Michelle Cardenas, and Andrew Jeon!
Former CIA Director John Brennan with Andrew Jeon, Jessica Cuevas, Adisen Massie, and Michelle Cardenas
Many children grow up wanting to be a federal agent of some sort, and the CIA certainly has an allure. This was the case for former Director Brennan, who applied to the CIA, and when told he would be given an interview, immediately told all of his family about the exciting turn of events! Of course, you can’t be a clandestine agent if everyone knows you are interviewing for the CIA, so he had to turn around and tell everyone that the interview hadn’t worked out. As it turned out, however, the interview went well, and Brennan embarked on an illustrious career.
Serving from 1980-2005, Brennan specialized in Middle Eastern Affairs and counterterrorism and would eventually create a National Counterterrorism Center. Due to his specialization, he had the unique opportunity to serve as an intelligence briefer to Presidents Clinton and Bush (43).
While moderator Steven Slick advertised Brennan’s book, Undaunted: My Fight Against America’s Enemies, at Home and Abroad, he also noted that a title such as “Reform” would have been apt. Not only did Brennan reform the agency, but he helped establish our nation’s policy and response to terrorism, disasters, and cyberattacks.
Brennan was a fitting director for the agency, believing that they should primarily focus on intelligence and not lethal action. He also occasionally angered members of Congress, because he did not seek their recommendations for the types of reforms needed. If he had, he said, he would still be waiting on decisions and consensus.
At almost every opportunity, Brennan spoke of what he and other agents and government figures did as “public service.” And he encouraged the young people in the audience–mostly us–to see public service as valuable and obligatory.
As we’ve come to expect, it was another top-notch speaker and experience put on by the World Affairs Council. Many thanks for the wonderful service provided by WAC.