Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan in Conversation with Professor John McLaughlin
March 23, 2016
Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan joined students, faculty, and staff on campus for an off-the-record discussion with Professor John McLaughlin as an installment of McLaughlin’s "Defense Against the Dark Arts" program. The interview series—which derives its name from the Harry Potter books—brings senior Washington-based practitioners to campus for interviews that seek to provide students with first hand and candid insights on how to successfully manage careers and operate effectively in the American capital. Toward this end, the event’s off-the-record nature allowed the conversation to be open and candid.
McLaughlin began by asking Director Brennan questions about his career trajectory and experience with the Central Intelligence Agency from 1980 to 2005 and then again as Director since 2013. As part of this discussion, Brennan shared his thoughts on what it takes to succeed at the agency, as well as discussed his personal relationships with intelligence counterparts overseas.
In the question and answer period, Brennan responded to a range of operational and organizational questions about the intelligence agency, including on goals and complexities of the organization’s security clearance process and potential difficulties associated with the CIA's reorganization. Brennan also provided feedback on the agency’s recently changed role in climate change, its learning pains in the wake of 9/11, and what he would do as director if the next U.S. president asked something of the agency that he believed to be illegal. Throughout the question and answer session, Brennan provided anecdotes and insights that made clear he brings a great deal of thoughtfulness and introspection to his role at the Central Intelligence Agency.
At the close of the engaging discussion, McLaughlin presented Brennan with a "magic" wand and badges from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in recognition of his achievements amidst the "dark arts" of Washington bureaucracy and politics.