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John Brennan Sworn in as CIA Director Using Constitution Lacking Bill of Rights

Emptywheel | March 8, 2013

According to the White House, John Brennan was sworn in as CIA Director on a “first draft” of the Constitution including notations from George Washington, dating to 1787.

Vice President Joe Biden swears in CIA Director John Brennan in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, March 8, 2013. Members of Brennan’s family stand with him. Brennan was sworn in with his hand on an original draft of the Constitution, dating from 1787, which has George Washington’s personal handwriting and annotations on it.

That means, when Brennan vowed to protect and defend the Constitution, he was swearing on one that did not include the First, Fourth, Fifth, or Sixth Amendments — or any of the other Amendments now included in our Constitution. The Bill of Rights did not become part of our Constitution until 1791, 4 years after the Constitution that Brennan took his oath on.

I really don’t mean to be an asshole about this. But these vows always carry a great deal of symbolism. And whether he meant to invoke this symbolism or not, the moment at which Brennan took over the CIA happened to exclude (in symbolic form, though presumably not legally) the key limits on governmental power that protect American citizens.

Update: Olivier Knox describes how the White House pushed the symbolism of this.

Hours after CIA Director John Brennan took the oath of office – behind closed doors, far away from the press, perhaps befitting his status as America’s top spy – the White House took pains to emphasize the symbolism of the ceremony.

“There’s one piece of this that I wanted to note for you,” spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters gathered for their daily briefing. “Director Brennan was sworn in with his hand on an original draft of the Constitution that had George Washington’s personal handwriting and annotations on it, dating from 1787.”

Earnest said Brennan had asked for a document from the National Archives that would demonstrate the U.S. is a nation of laws.

“Director Brennan told the president that he made the request to the archives because he wanted to reaffirm his commitment to the rule of law as he took the oath of office as director of the CIA,” Earnest said.

Update: I’m assuming this copy of the Constitution is the one Brennan used.

March 9, 2013 - Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , ,


  1. Reblogged this on American Everyman.


    Comment by willyloman | March 9, 2013

  2. Article 6, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution states,

    “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

    The Constitutional document that Brennan affirmed his oath was not a copy of the Constitution that was ratified in 1789. It was one of many original drafts of the Constitution in 1787 as mentioned in the above referenced article, “…Director Brennan was sworn in with his hand on an original draft of the Constitution that had George Washington’s personal handwriting and annotations on it, dating from 1787.”

    The act of taking an oath involves a sworn statement of loyalty or truthfulness, in the case of federal high offices, it is to the U.S. Constitution. The historical procedure followed is for the appointee to raise their right hand and place their left hand on a document recognized by the general public for its relevance to the appointment of office. The touching of the document effectively connects the words spoken in oath and the accepted document together.

    For example as we all know, witnesses who testify in a court of law swear to tell the truth by placing their left hand on a bible to affirm their statements will be truthful. For federal high office (i.e., CIA Director) the appointee places their hand on a bible or some other body of work known for its acceptance as an official document.

    Would it be appropriate for a court witness or federal appointee to swear an oath with their left hand on Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation or a favorite novel or some other esoteric writing not generally known to the public? Of course not because it would diminish the significance and veracity of the testimony or appointment. Brennan took his oath of office to the U.S. Constitution even though he has admitted he would violate with malice the right of every American to due process.

    He might as well have sworn an oath with his left hand on a comic book because that’s what he thinks of the Constitution of the United States.


    Comment by WithLibertyAndJusticeForAll | March 9, 2013

  3. Maybe, Mr. Brennan is a superstitious man for all his bravado to determine who has a right to life.


    Comment by ribeekah grant | March 10, 2013

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