CIA Nominee John Brennan hearing
Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on his nomination to be the Director of the CIA, on Capitol Hill in Washington. - Reuters

CIA director nominee John Brennan has distanced himself from the harsh interrogation methods used by the agency, including waterboarding, during his grilling by the US Senate Committee on Intelligence.

"I did not take steps to stop the CIA's use of those techniques. I was not in the chain of command of that programme. I had expressed my personal objections and views to some agency colleagues," Brennan told the hearing. He, however, declined to identify those methods as "torture" even when questioned several times.

He said waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning, was "reprehensible and should never be done again". During his testimony, Brennan also pledged not to use such techniques while he remains as the CIA chief

Brennan added during the hearing: "But I did not try to stop it, because it was something that was being done in a different part of the agency under the authority of others."

The hearing was frequently interrupted by yelling of protesters forcing the committee to clear the room of the protesters. One of them held a placard which read: "Brennan=Drone Killing".

They were objecting to the US drone strikes and controversial interrogation techniques made popular during the Bush administration. Brennan was a senior CIA official during Bush's tenure.

Brennan strongly defended the American drone strikes. The counterterrorism adviser to the US president said the drone strikes are only used as a last resort to tackle insurgents on the Pakistan- Afghan border and Yemen.

He said the authorities are careful in avoiding civilian casualties during the attacks. The attacks have widened the rift between Islamabad and Washington as Pakistan says the strategy has proved ineffective against terrorists and instead has caused hardship to civilians.

"Nothing could be further from the truth. We only take such actions as a last resort to save lives when there's no other alternative to taking an action that's going to mitigate that threat," said Brennan.

The committee is likely to clear the nomination of Brennan which is expected to be followed by Senate approval, say analysts.

Although he was considered for the top post in 2008, Brennan withdrew his nomination after he was accused of playing a central role in CIA's controversial interrogation techniques.