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Thread: Barack Obama taps Leon Panetta to head CIA

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    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    Default Barack Obama taps Leon Panetta to head CIA

    Monday, Jan. 5, 2009 15:13 EST
    Obama taps Leon Panetta to head CIA

    President-elect Barack Obama has reportedly settled on his choice to head the CIA: Former Rep. Leon Panetta, who served as White House chief of staff during Bill Clinton's administration.

    Panetta will, if confirmed, come to the job without much in the way of intelligence experience. Obama is said to have wanted someone who's a veteran with this kind of work, but as the New York Times notes, that was all but impossible because of the Agency's history during the Bush administration. The choice, the paper's Carl Hulse and Mark Mazzetti write, "points up the difficulty Mr. Obama had in finding a C.I.A. director with no connection to controversial counterterrorism programs of the Bush era."

    Democrats who've spoken to reporters about the choice are arguing that what Panetta lacks in insider knowledge of the CIA and intelligence gathering, he makes up for in other ways. "In disclosing the pick, officials pointed to Mr. Panetta’s sharp managerial skills, his strong bipartisan standing on Capitol Hill, his significant foreign policy experience in the White House and his service on the Iraq Study Group," Hulse and Mazzetti report. "The officials noted that he had a handle on intelligence spending from his days as director of the Office and Management and Budget."
    ― Alex Koppelman
    Obama taps Leon Panetta to head CIA - War Room - Salon.com

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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    The choice, the paper's Carl Hulse and Mark Mazzetti write, "points up the difficulty Mr. Obama had in finding a C.I.A. director with no connection to controversial counterterrorism programs of the Bush era."
    Good. Finally some competence from Team Obama.
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

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    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    A bit more from another article:
    UPDATE II: A bit more good news today was Obama's announcement of his selection for CIA Director: former Clinton White House Chief of Staff (and Congressman) Leon Panetta. I don't have any particular thoughts, one way or the other, about Panetta himself, but -- particularly in the wake of the Brennan controversy -- it does seem clear that the Obama team was serious about avoiding anyone who had any connection at all to the Bush torture, surveillance and detention programs. Not only did they want to avoid anyone with any formal connection, but also anyone who (like Brennan) advocated or supported those programs, as The New York Times reported today:
    Members of Mr. Obama’s transition also raised concerns about other candidates, even some Democratic lawmakers with intelligence experience. Representative Jane Harman of California, formerly the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, had hoped to get the job, but she was ruled out as a candidate in part because of her early support for some Bush administration programs like the domestic eavesdropping program.
    Good. Supporting Bush's illegal NSA program -- as Harman did, repeatedly and explicitly -- should be disqualifying for the position of CIA Director. Panetta may have many flaws -- who doesn't after years and years in Washington? -- but Obama's apparent determination to avoid anyone "tainted" by the CIA's last eight years is commendable. Like the Johnsen appointment, it doesn't, standing alone, prove anything -- only actions will do that -- but it's still a positive step.
    UPDATE V: Atrios points to an Op-Ed written by Leon Panetta earlier this year in which he aggressively criticizes the Bush administration for exploiting "fear" to justify torture, illegal eavesdropping and general presidential lawlessness. Panetta's rhetoric is a bit restrained given the extremism he's condemning -- he's no Dawn Johnsen -- but, as Atrios says: "not bad for the Village."
    UPDATE VI: Spencer Ackerman reports that Sen. Dianne Feinstein is upset with the selection of Panetta, petulantly complaining that she wasn't consulted in advance and that it would be best to have an "intelligence professional" in that position. CQ's Tim Starks reports that Sen. Jay Rockefeller is making very similar noises about this selection. Few things could reflect better on Panetta's selection than the fact that Feinstein and Rockefeller -- two of the most Bush-enabling Senators -- are unhappy with it.
    Obama's impressive new OLC chief - Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com

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    Gold Member mamaste's Avatar
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    Is he hot? I'd hate for Obama to break the trend... Google says no.

    I mean, he's a nice looking man just not a hottie like so many others in Obama's cabinet. Well, I have enough eye candy. I guess he'll do.

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    Elite Member chartreuse's Avatar
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    ^^no, panetta's not hot.

    wow, it's a trip to know he's been tapped to head up the CIA. i remember when he was a local congressman in my area, who spoke at the 8th grade graduation of a class that my mom taught. huh, funny how things change.
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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    Panetta? Ummmmm... Well.....


    For an agency whose job it is not to be surprised, nearly everything seems to surprise the CIA these days. So it's not surprising that the agency was surprised by the choice of Leon Panetta to head it. I was surprised too. My first reaction: it's an odd and unsettling choice.

    Here's why.

    First, it's a bad idea to pick a politician to lead the CIA, because it is supposed to be an agency that is not political. Don't laugh -- that's the way it's supposed to be. Think about George W. Bush's most overt effort to politicize the CIA, by picking the Republican ideologue and hatchet man, Representative Porter Goss, in 2006. Goss' tenure was a disaster, and he had the advantage of being a former CIA officer and chairman of the House intelligence committee. Panetta is a know-nothing when it comes to intelligence.

    Which brings up the second problem. The Obama transition team is telling reporters that Panetta had experience as a "consumer" of intelligence when he was chief of staff at the Clinton White House. Well, I have experience as a purchaser of computer equipment, but you wouldn't want me fixing your laptop. Fixing the CIA -- and believe me, it needs fixing, along with serious downsizing -- requires someone who knows how the insides work, and Panetta has no clue.

    Third, while Panetta may oppose torture -- a "no-brainer," to quote Dick Cheney's phrase when asked about waterboarding -- there are hundreds of former CIA top officials who actually know how the CIA works who were appalled by the torture regime. Any of them might have been a better choice. So opposing torture is a good idea -- and yes, it's amazing that we're even debating whether torture is acceptable -- but Panetta gets no points for me on that score. That's like saying he opposes child pornography. Duh!

    Fourth, Panetta is a relentless centrist and a conciliator. He's one more cog in the center-right national security apparatus that Obama is patiently assembling. Which raises another very important issue: Is Panetta the one to stand up and fight for civilian control of the intelligence community? Of course not. His boss, it appears, will he Admiral Dennis Blair, yet another top military man appointed to run the U.S. intelligence community as head of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Now the very office of the DNI is a useless post, and the entire office ought to be abolished by Obama on Day One. Who needs it? It was created by Congress, with President Bush's support, as part of the helter-skelter intelligence reorganization that also saw the creation of several other vast, unneeded agencies: the Northern Command, the Department of Homeland Security, and National Counterterrorism Center, and others. Obama should get rid of all of them. In the meantime, by appointing Blair, a man deeply entangled in the military-industrial complex, Obama is guaranteeing that the CIA and the other fifteen or so agencies that comprise the "community" will be ever beholden to the Pentagon, which already absorbs something like 80 percent of the intelligence budget.

    The Panetta appointment is doomed. I give him a year, before he gives up over there. He's no match for the hardheaded spooks who run the place, and he's no match for the military brass who are elbowing their way to more and more control of intelligence spending and priorities.

    Panetta? Ummmmm... Well.....
    It's no longer a dog whistle, it's a fucking trombone


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    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    Tuesday, Jan. 06, 2009
    Leon Panetta: An Intel Outsider the CIA Needs

    By Robert Baer

    Leon Panetta may not have an intelligence background, but his appointment as CIA director shows that Barack Obama understands the CIA's problems. As the former White House chief of staff, Clinton Administration budget director and an eight-term California congressman, Panetta knows his way around Washington better than most people, and that kind of knowledge is exactly what the CIA needs right now.

    Panetta is experienced enough to understand that the CIA was the victim of political manipulation under the Bush Administration. It was the Bush White House that cherry-picked the intelligence on Iraq, not the CIA. Panetta will have the ear of the new President to walk him through all of this, and make the case that there is no point in throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Panetta will also serve as a good counterweight to retired Admiral Dennis Blair, the designated Director of National Intelligence who is unlikely to streamline the intelligence community or challenge the Pentagon's preeminent position.

    The CIA also needs Panetta to hold off the Senate and House intelligence committees, which are gearing up to rip into the CIA for the last eight years of renditions, secret prisons and bad intelligence on Iraq. Mistakes aside, the last thing the CIA needs is another round of overly intrusive Congressional hearings like those that so badly damaged it in the '70s. If today's Congress were to deliver a coup de grace to the CIA, the Pentagon would effectively be the nation's only intelligence agency.

    Panetta's service on the Iraq Study Group will serve him well. Aside from Afghanistan, how and when we pull out of Iraq are the most pressing intelligence and foreign policy issues that the new Administration will face in the next two years. There is no time for a CIA director to play catch-up on Iraq.

    Leading Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee Jay Rockefeller and Dianne Feinstein have already criticized the choice of Panetta, claiming the CIA needs to be led by an experienced intelligence professional. But right now political clout, and the ability to be a strong advocate for the CIA, far outweighs the virtues of being a professional spy, someone who knows the difference between a "live drop" and a "dead drop." A professional from the ranks would be eaten up by Hillary Clinton at State or Bob Gates at Defense. Or end up like Bill Clinton's CIA Director Jim Woolsey, shut out of the White House, ignored and irrelevant.

    I've noticed these days that Tim Weiner's Legacy of Ashes has become the CIA's report card for the last 50 years, a final and damning indictment. But what the lay reader misses is that Weiner's book catalogues the failed covert operations and finished intelligence manipulated by the White House — in other words, the politicization of the CIA — but fails to acknowledge its successes. There's more than enough truth in Legacy of Ashes, but what the book misses is the point that when the CIA is left to the basics, it does just fine, thank you.

    In spite of the last eight years, the CIA is an institution we don't want to, and shouldn't, give up on. The rank and file in the CIA understand that they need an advocate in the White House, just as it needs someone to tell the President when he needs to be told no. The only question now is whether Panetta will have the portfolio to do what is absolutely necessary — move the CIA out of Washington, get it away from the politicians, get the CIA out of covert action once and for all, and pay CIA employees what they deserve for the hard work demanded of them.

    Robert Baer, a former CIA field officer assigned to the Middle East, is TIME.com's intelligence columnist and the author of See No Evil and, most recently, the novel Blow the House Down

    Leon Panetta: An Intel Outsider the CIA Needs - TIME

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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Am i the only one that thinks the CIA deserves whatever investigation it brought onto itself? Hello, complicit?
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    I don't know about the Panetta choice. I have to agree with Diane Fienstein when she said the CIA director should have an intelligence background.

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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Fienstein has no leverage to speak on these matters considering the sucked Bush's cock on torture, Iraq and everything else. She just doesn't want someone in there she can't control and who goes against all the things she's complicit in.

    Stupid DINO bitch.
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    That might be true about Feinstein. But she's still right. If you're going to run the CIA, then you should have some experience in either the CIA or FBI.

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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    ^^ she's also a war profiteer

    The Center for Public Integrity has reported that US Senator Dianne Feinstein and her husband, Richard Blum, are making millions of dollars from Iraq and Afghanistan contracts through his company, Perini. Feinstein voted for the resolution giving President George W. Bush the authority to invade Iraq.

    War profiteering - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    and yes, in this case she is right, some experience is necessary
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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    yeaaaaaaaah, she shouldn't be on any board really. She's not even a real Dem.
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

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    Elite Member greysfang's Avatar
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    I don't think this is a good choice. Obama's first real miss for me.
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    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grimmlok View Post
    Fienstein has no leverage to speak on these matters considering the sucked Bush's cock on torture, Iraq and everything else. She just doesn't want someone in there she can't control and who goes against all the things she's complicit in.

    Stupid DINO bitch.
    I concur. Feinstein isn't necessarily an independent thinker when it comes to intelligence matters.

    Quote Originally Posted by kingcap72 View Post
    That might be true about Feinstein. But she's still right. If you're going to run the CIA, then you should have some experience in either the CIA or FBI.
    Not necessarily. Considering how much the CIA chief has to work with the other members of the cabinet, it's not necessarily correct to assume the head of the CIA concentrates solely on intelligence matters in the day-to-day operations or is the sole function of the CIA chief. The directors underneath CIA chief, yes, but not necessarily the CIA chief. One of Tenet's problems as CIA chief is that he capitulated to Bush when CIA intelligence contradicted Bush's claims on Iraq. Tenet didn't know how to/couldn't deal with Rumsfeld & Cheney. It's a key part of the job.
    Retired CIA deputy director for the East Europe division Milt Bearden said Panetta is a "brilliant" choice. "It is not problematic that Panetta lacks experience in intelligence," Bearden e-mailed. "Intel experience is overrated. Good judgement, common sense, and an understanding of Washington is a far better mix to take to Langley than the presumption of experience in intelligence matters. Having a civilian in the intelligence community mix is, likewise, a useful balance. Why not DNI?"
    The Panetta choice also makes sense to him, said Philip Zelikow, a former counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (and Foreign Policy writer). "The issues of presidential trust and clean hands are, at this moment in history, most important," Zelikow said by e-mail. "And even an 'intelligence professional' would have to rely on others in many ways. ... So Obama and his team have made a certain kind of tradeoff."
    former intelligence analyst Greg Treverton, now with the Rand Corporation, said Panetta's experience as a former White House chief of staff might give him a unique understanding of the presidency and its needs for intelligence. "One of my experiences with people like Panetta who have been chief of staff is that they have a clear sense of what is helpful to the president that most senior officials don't," Treverton told me. "They get it. What he could do and couldn't do. And that's an interesting advantage Panetta brings. Knowledge of what the presidential stakes are like, how issues arise, and what they need to be protected from, for better or worse."
    00-Huh? Former intel officials react to Panetta CIA pick | The Cable

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