CIA director: We are ‘not immune’ to terrorist violence

CIA Director John Brennan said Wednesday that although the United States is an “ocean away” from Islamic State group strongholds, the U.S. is not immune to its attacks.

He told PBS NewsHour co-anchor Judy Woodruff that this week’s attack in Istanbul, Turkey, was within the region where the Islamic State militancy is festering and that it shows the group’s determination to assault civilian targets.

“Given the nature of our open societies, there’s just a lot of people at airports and transportation hubs and in the streets of our cities that they can gun down and kill before the authorities are able to stop them,” he said.

Intelligence has its limits, but there are things law enforcement can do to make their plans more difficult, Brennan said. “I don’t think we’re ever going to have a situation where we are immune to this type of violence.”

Woodruff also asked him about what his overseas intelligence counterparts have said about Donald Trump’s campaign messages.

Brennan said he does see “a real concern” among his counterparts on the proposals expressed in the campaigns to address growing terrorism. “But my job is to make sure that they’re reassured that the intelligence relationships between the CIA and their services are going to remain strong irrespective of what happens in a presidential campaign,” he said.

“One of the most important things about the agency is we need to continue to soldier on, irrespective of what political party or candidate may prevail in an election.”

He also addressed the recent House report on the Islamic militants’ attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, saying it’s not unusual for the CIA to present competing views as was pointed out in the report. “What we try to do is to be able to explain to our customers what is the prevailing view, but we don’t try to hide or suppress the minority views on these issues.”

Brennan’s interview followed his appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he said the attack on Istanbul “bears the hallmarks of ISIL’s depravity,” using an acronym for the Islamic State group.

Watch Brennan’s full interview on Wednesday’s PBS NewsHour. Video excerpts edited by Justin Scuiletti.