John Brennan, Mr Obama’s counter-terrorism adviser, was nominated as the intelligence agency’s next director two months after David Petraeus resigned over an extramarital affair with his biographer.
Brennan, a 25-year veteran of the CIA, has served as President Obama’s Advisor for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security since 2009.
“For the last four years,” President Obama said, “John developed and has overseen our comprehensive counterterrorism strategy – a collaborative effort across the government, including intelligence and defense and homeland security, and law enforcement agencies.”
Brennan played a very important role in expanding a programme of air strikes by unmanned drones on suspected terrorists in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan which has killed more than 2,000 people.
Obama’s decision to go ahead with the picks made clear he was ready to fight for his personnel and eager to put behind him a flap over his preferred choice for secretary of state, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, reports the Reuters.
Rice pulled out of consideration in the face of criticism over her descriptions of the deadly attacks on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
President Obama called Brennan “one of the hardest working civil servants I’ve ever known” and said that he valued Brennan’s integrity and commitment “to the values that define us as Americans.”
White House colleagues have described him as “a priest whose blessing has become indispensable” to the president in their selection of targets for drone strikes from a so-called “kill list”.
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which will consider Brennan’s nomination, said: “Clearly, Mr. Brennan has the qualifications and expertise to be the next CIA director.”
She added: “He has longstanding knowledge of the operations of this critical agency and also the strength to see that it follows the law. I believe he will be a strong and positive director.”
Accepting the nomination in a speech at the White House, Mr Brennan, 57, said: “I will make it my mission to ensure the CIA has the tools it needs to keep our country safe.”
Mr. Obama also confirmed his nomination of Chuck Hagel, a former Republican senator whose foreign policy stances have attracted criticism from former colleagues, as his next defence secretary.
According to the Reuters, Hagel, who would be the first Vietnam veteran to take the job, would succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, 74, who is retiring from public life after a more than four-decade career in government that included leading the CIA during the covert raid to kill al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011.
Mr. Obama on Monday praised Mr Hagel’s “willingness to speak his mind”, stating that he “understands that America stands strongest when we stand with allies and with friends”.
The Telegraph says that Hagel, 66, appeared to face the tougher fight for confirmation in the Democratic-controlled Senate, in spite of Obama’s warm words of praise for the former Nebraska lawmaker as someone “who bears the scars and the shrapnel from the battles that he fought” in the Vietnam War.