Donald Trump’s plan to make the nation safe by barring refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations isn’t going to “help in any significant way,” former CIA Director John Brennan said Sunday.
Protecting the nation against terrorism requires a sophisticated strategy that looks beyond an individual’s citizenship and religion, and focuses instead on thorough vetting procedures and issues such as cyber recruitment by extremists, Brennan told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
He also pointed to a report last week by the Department of Homeland Security revealing that residents of the countries targeted in Trump’s travel ban are “rarely implicated” in U.S terrorism. Though courts have blocked Trump’s initial executive order instituting the travel ban, the president has said he plans to issue a revised ban this week much like the first one.
The DHS report “puts its finger on it by saying that citizenship is not the indicator of a potential terrorist action,” Brennan said. “The vetting process that needs to go on has to take into account multiple factors, not just countries of origin or where they might be departing from.”
The blanket ban also sends a “bad message” that the crackdown is about Muslims, rather than terrorists, Brennan added.
Trump’s new national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, told NSA staffers earlier this week that using the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” was unhelpful and could undermine U.S. security goals, a source confirmed to CNN. McMaster reportedly emphasized that terrorism has no place in Islamic teaching, and such language could serve to alienate Muslim allies. Trump, in contrast, regularly uses the phrase.
Brennan also waded into the controversy over Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, saying the only way the nation’s interests will be served is if an investigation into the issue is bipartisan. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Ca.) earlier this week called for an “independent prosecutor” to investigate the claims, rather than Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime Trump supporter.
“It’s very important that the investigation be done in a bipartisan fashion,” said Brennan. “If it’s only one party that’s going to be leading this, it is not going to deliver the results that the American people need and deserve.”
He also branded as “verboten” the administration’s attempt to pressure the FBI to publicly refute reports about aides’ contact with Russia. Brennan said he had never experienced anything like it working in both Republican and Democratic administrations.
Trump has dismissed reports of campaign contacts with Russia as “fake news” and insisted that FBI leaks are the “real scandal.”
He attacked the FBI again in tweets Friday and resurrected the “fake news” claim on Sunday.
Brennan said any leaks of classified information are “appalling.” But those leaks, he said, could be coming from any one of a number of sources, including the intelligence community, Congress or even the White House itself.