Just about 24 hours after the news was released that the President-elect would probably nominate Leon Panetta to head the CIA, Mr. Obama had to defend his choice before reporters this afternoon.
Panetta, a former Congressman from California and Clinton White House Chief of Staff, has already come under fire because he has no intelligence service experience, even on the House Intelligence Committee.
Barack Obama praised Panetta’s management skill and experience and said when he formally announces his intelligence team that anouncement will show balance, skill and experience.
Obama went out of his way to say Panetta as “one of the finest public servants that we’ve had.”
“He brings extraordinary management skills, great political savvy, an impeccable record of integrity,” Obama said, adding — perhaps in answer to grumbling from some members of Congress that Panetta has no direct experience in intelligence-gathering — that “he is somebody who obviously was fully versed in international affairs crisis management, and had to evaluate intelligence consistently on a day-to-day basis.”
Los Angeles Times writers Greg Miller and Christi Parsons said, “In choosing Leon E. Panetta to be the next CIA director, President-elect Barack Obama appears to have concluded that a spy chief who understands politics may be better equipped to carry out the incoming administration’s national security agenda than one who understands espionage.”
But despite Panetta’s known political acumen and that of the Obama team, one small detail was left unattended.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who this week begins her tenure as the first female head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she was not consulted on the choice and indicated she might oppose it.
“I was not informed about the selection of Leon Panetta to be the CIA director,” Feinstein said. “My position has consistently been that I believe the agency is best served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time.”
Panetta’s lack of “intelligence experience” is probably seen as a good thing by Obama and his advisors.
George Tenet came up through the CIA to become the Director of the CIA team that made the wrong call on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
And Porter Goss, a well respected member of the House Itelligence Committee, went to head the CIA where most said he failed….
By John E. Carey
Wakefield Chapel, Virginia
What’s so bad about Panetta?
Read the Los Angeles Times story:
Read the Huffington Post
There are lessons to be learned from Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s reaction to the nomination of Leon Panetta as CIA head. One is that powerful Democratic Senators can be no less sensitive or arbitrary than their GOP counterparts. Another is that the phrase “intelligence professional” can be used like a mantra without being properly defined for the public. Nevertheless, the appointment of a “politician” to run the CIA is not inherently wrong. It can be a good or bad thing — depending on how it’s done, and by whom.
Did the appointment of Panetta — a 70-year-old veteran of the Democratic establishment with a blue-chip name but no record of fresh thinking about intelligence issues — indicate a dearth of creativity and options within the Obama team as time runs out on the transition?