When Vice President Joe Biden performed the swearing in ceremony of John Brennan in the White House's Roosevelt Room on Friday, the new CIA director chose to put his hand on a copy of the Constitution – before it included the Bill of Rights – and not a Bible.
Hours after the ceremony that took place behind closed doors on Friday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest drew reporters' attention to the use of a copy of the Constitution, and not the Bible.
"There's one piece of this that I wanted to note for you," he said. "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, former chief counterterrorism advisor to President Obama, 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."
When David Petraeus was sworn in as CIA director by Biden in September 2011, his wife held a Bible for him to put his hand on it.
Brennan not only departed from the traditional practice, but used a copy of the Constitution that did not include the Bill of Rights.
The emptywheel.net blog noted that the Bill of Rights was absent in that copy of the Constitution. "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," it said. "The Bill of Rights did not become part of our Constitution until 1791, four years after the Constitution that Brennan took his oath on."
In April 2012, Brennan was the first official in the Obama administration to publicly acknowledge CIA drone attacks against terrorists in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Last week, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) filibustered Brennan's nomination for nearly 13 hours to rail against the administration's drone program and to challenge the president's authority to kill Americans with drones.
Paul's move came after Attorney General Eric Holder said the use of a drone to kill an American inside the United States was not likely but could not be ruled out entirely.
"To allow one man to accuse in secret – you never get notified you've been accused," Fox News quoted Paul as saying on the floor. "Your notification is the buzz of propellers on the drone as it flies overhead in the seconds before you're killed. Is that what we really want from our government?"
Paul, who was aided by colleagues from both parties, said he'd be raising the same complaints under a Republican president. "No one politician should be allowed to judge the guilt, to charge an individual, to judge the guilt of an individual and to execute an individual. It goes against everything that we fundamentally believe in our country," he said.
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell came to the floor in Paul's support and congratulated him for his "tenacity and for his conviction."
McConnell called Obama's choice of Brennan a "controversial nominee."