Brennan, a 25-year veteran of the agency, would take the helm of the CIA in the wake of the resignation of former Army Gen. David Petraeus.
The White House is kicking off its effort to promote Brennan this morning, as the president also prepares to launch his formal pitch for former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel to become secretary of Defense.
If confirmed, the two men would complete the core of Obama’s national security team in his second term. They would join Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, whom Obama has named to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of State.
Hagel and Brennan promise to be controversial choices. Hagel has drawn fire for criticizing talk of a military strike by the U.S. or Israel against Iran and for opposing some sanctions against Iran.
Shortly after Obama was first elected, Brennan asked the president to take him out of contention for the CIA position. At the time, liberal critics said that Brennan, who had served in a senior intelligence position under President George W. Bush, was too closely tied to that administration’s use of brutal interrogation techniques that critics said were torture. Brennan strongly denied that he had ever supported those policies.
The White House plans to cite Brennan’s experience in the agency in making the case for his confirmation. Brennan served in the field, including a stint as station chief in Saudi Arabia, and at headquarters of the CIA, where he was deputy executive director.
He is also credited for building the National Counter-terrorism Center to improve inter-agency coordination in the wake of 9/11.
Brennan claims no party affiliation and has held senior positions in Democratic and Republican administrations, the senior official said.