John Brennan accused of cashing in on connections.
When John Brennan was chosen to be the next director of the CIA, he was hailed as a "career spy" who had never stopped toiling for the American people. "He is one of the hardest-working public servants I've ever seen," said President Barack Obama.
Before joining Mr Obama's White House, however, Mr Brennan ' who on Thursday faces questioning at a Senate confirmation hearing ' took a lucrative four-year break from government that has received far less attention than his 25 years spent climbing the US intelligence bureaucracy.
Mr Brennan, 57, was paid $760,000 (?485,000) a year as chief executive of The Analysis Corporation (TAC) from 2005. The security firm, based just outside Washington, had just won multimillion-dollar contracts from the intelligence establishment Mr Brennan was departing, and would go on to win more.
He also received $30,000 a year to spend an hour a week chairing the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA), a group representing 150 security corporations that describes itself as a "catalyst for public-private partnerships," rather than a lobbying body.
Mr Brennan carefully obeyed ethics rules limiting conflicts of interest among officials moving to the private sector. Yet his profitable spin through the revolving doors separating Washington's corridors of power and the corporate boardrooms of northern Virginia remains troubling for some former colleagues.
"I think it's a bad practice," Philip Giraldi, an 18-year CIA counter-terrorism veteran, told The Daily Telegraph. "Since 9/11 there has been a huge growth in it. It opens the door to cronyism".
TAC, which specialises in databases, built the US government's first terrorist watch-list, Tipoff, during the 1990s. Two years after the September 11 attacks, management of Tipoff was handed to the first incarnation of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which was headed by Mr Brennan, a veteran CIA official who served as station chief in Saudi Arabia.
In August 2005, Mr Brennan stepped down from the NCTC. Two months later, TAC, flush with a $60 million deal with the FBI, reportedly secured a lucrative deal to improve the NCTC's terrorist watch-list. The following month, Mr Brennan joined TAC as chief executive.
Jerry Robinson, the president of its parent company, boasted at the time that Mr Brennan's "intimate knowledge of the intelligence community" would give the company an "invaluable boost". The firm's revenues are estimated to have risen to $26 million a year by 2006 ' up more than 400 per cent since 2001.
Aki Peritz, a former CIA official and counter-terrorism analyst, said: "On one hand, these people are cashing in on relationships they've built in government over a lifetime. On the other, intelligence is all they have ever done. They've got to pay for school for their kids, and want to live in a nice house." In July 2006, Mr Brennan recruited George Tenet, a close friend and former CIA director whom he served as chief of staff, to be a senior adviser to TAC. The hire further bolstered the firm's contacts in the intelligence community.
Mr Tenet has been sharply criticised by former colleagues for profiting from his former role after presiding over the high-profile failures of US intelligence before the September 11 attacks and the approach to the invasion of Iraq.
In April 2007, Mr Brennan began spearheading the private security industry as INSA chairman. It was short-lived, however, as he was recruited as a campaign aide to Mr Obama, who took him into the White House as homeland security adviser after winning the 2008 election.
Completing his circle back into government, Mr Brennan was swiftly charged by Mr Obama with investigating how the terrorist watch list system developed on his watch at NCTC, by the firm he later joined, failed to alert officials to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called "pants bomber".
Abdulmutallab, a British-educated Nigerian 23-year-old, tried to bring down an airliner bound for Detroit on Christmas Day 2009 after his father warned US officials that he had been radicalised.
A White House spokesman said at the time that it had been "determined that the benefit to the public interest ... outweighed any potential conflict of interest" due to Mr Brennan's past links to the system. He was issued with a special ethics waiver to carry out the review, whose findings went largely unnoticed.
Mr. Brennan was defended by Michael Leiter, one of his successors as director of the National Counterterrorism Center. "There are appropriate restrictions in place, and I only wish we had more people with private sector experience in government," Mr Leiter told The Daily Telegraph.
"John's profession is his life. His work ethic, dedication and integrity bode well for his time at the CIA." The White House and TAC declined to comment.