- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 10, 2013

Conservatives think he is too soft on terrorism, and liberals think he is too hard.

However, relatives of the victims of one of the most infamous terrorist attacks on an American target are praising John O. Brennan and urging the Senate to confirm him as the next director of the CIA.

“Our relationship is personal. We consider him family. … We love the big lug,” the board of directors of the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 said in an open letter released this week.

Mr. Brennan was a CIA officer on Dec. 21, 1988, when a Libyan terrorist exploded a bomb on the American airliner about a half-hour after the flight left London for New York. The bomb killed all 259 passengers and crew members, and large chunks of the plane fell on the town of Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 11 others.

Libyan intelligence officer Abdel Baset al-Megrahi was later convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2001 in Scotland for the attack.

Eight years later, Scottish authorities released him, thinking he suffered from terminal cancer and had only months to live.

Al-Megrahi, the only Libyan convicted in the attack, received a hero’s welcome in Tripoli, and lived for nearly three more years, dying in May 2012.

As the top counterterrorism aide in the White House, Mr. Brennan tried to prevent al-Megrahi’s release and kept the Lockerbie families informed about White House efforts.

“On behalf of President Obama, he called the Scottish official who was considering [the] release … to register his strong objection and immediately called our organization to report the conversation,” the board said in its letter.

Referring to Mr. Brennan’s 25 years in the CIA, the board added: “John Brennan has spent an honorable career in a cold and heartless profession at the center of horrible and unforgettable actions and never lost the empathy and, indeed, love that can keep a man’s humanity in such a job.”

The board noted that Mr. Brennan, who grew up in New Jersey, had friends and colleagues who were killed in the attack. The CIA this year revealed that CIA officer Matthew K. Gannon was one of the victims.

The Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 is expected to make their case for Mr. Brennan among Republican senators who have problems with his nomination because of the administration’s unanswered questions about the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and over leaks of classified information that made Mr. Obama look tough on terrorism.

Families in South Carolina plan to contact Sen. Lindsey Graham, and relatives of the victims in Georgia plan to talk to Sen. Saxby Chambliss, vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which will hold confirmation hearings on Mr. Brennan’s nomination.

Hormel: All’s forgiven

James Hormel, the first openly homosexual U.S. ambassador, has accepted an apology from President Obama’s nominee for defense secretary who once criticized Mr. Hormel for being “aggressively gay.”

Chuck Hagel apologized to Mr. Hormel in December, when his name was being mentioned as a possible choice to replace Leon E. Panetta at the Pentagon.

Mr. Hormel’s first reaction was to dismiss Mr. Hagel’s apology as an insincere attempt to quell grumbling among Mr. Obama’s gay supporters.

This week, Mr. Hormel told liberal radio talk-show host Stephanie Miller that Mr. Hagel would make a good defense secretary, especially because he served as an enlisted man in Vietnam.

Earlier Mr. Hormel had said that Mr. Hagel had issued a “clear apology.”

“Senator Hagel’s apology is significant. I can’t remember a time when a potential presidential nominee apologized for anything. While the timing appears self-serving, the words themselves are unequivocal. They are a clear apology,” he said on his Facebook page.

In 1994, President Bill Clinton had considered naming Mr. Hormel, an heir to the Hormel meatpacking fortune, to serve as ambassador to Fiji, where homosexuality was illegal. Later, during a congressional recess, Mr. Clinton named Mr. Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg.

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