Archive for the ‘Feinstein’ Category

‘Card check’ bill loses key supporters

March 28, 2009
With Sens. Specter and Feinstein withdrawing their support, and the threat of a Republican filibuster, backers of the pro-union provision may have to consider less divisive alternatives.
By James Oliphant
The Lost Angeles Times
March 28, 2009

Reporting from Washington — Whether you label it the “card check” bill or the Employee Free Choice Act, you can also call it something else — in deep trouble.

Key senators this week appeared to cripple prospects for passing the highly polarizing measure, the labor movement’s top priority in Congress, which is aimed at making it easier for workers to join unions.

The latest hurdle came Friday, when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she would seek alternative legislation that was less divisive. Feinstein, a past sponsor of the act, cited the flailing economy as a reason; other critics of the bill have said it would drive up operating costs for businesses at a perilous time.

“This is an extraordinarily difficult economy, and feelings are very strong on both sides of the issue,” Feinstein said in a statement. “I would hope there is some way to find common ground that would be agreeable to both business and labor.”

Feinstein’s words came days after Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) declared that he would not support the bill. Specter too had supported the act in the past, and his announcement was viewed as eliminating any chance that Democrats could muster enough votes to break a promised Republican filibuster.

The card-check bill would bypass the traditional union election process and allow workers to be certified as a bargaining unit if a majority signed cards indicating their support for a union. The proposal played a leading role in congressional campaigns across the country, with voters bombarded by televised ads applauding and demonizing the bill.

Now its supporters are scrambling to figure out their next move. It appears clear that if the legislation has a future, it will not be in its present form.

“We knew all along that this bill would be amended. It seems clear now we’ll have to look at some changes to get to the floor,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), a cosponsor of the legislation.

Read the rest:
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworl
d/nation/la-na-card-check28-2009mar28
,0,4048410.story

Stimulus: Republicans Block Dems Offering to Spend More Money

February 3, 2009

Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked Democrats from adding $25 billion for highways, mass transit, and water projects to President Barack Obama‘s economic recovery program.

Already unhappy over the size of the measure, Republicans insisted additional infrastructure projects be paid for with cuts elsewhere in the bill.

By ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press Writer

But the Democratic amendment garnered 58 votes, just shy of the supermajority needed under Senate budget rules, and many more efforts to increase the measure’s size are sure to follow.

“We can’t add to the size of this bill,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. “The amount is just inconceivable to most people.”

At issue was a plan by Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to increase the highway funding in the bill to $40 billion, which reflected complaints from lawmakers in both parties that Obama’s plan doesn’t do enough to relieve a backlog of unfinished projects. The duo also wanted to increase mass transit programs by $5 billion boost and water projects by $7 billion.

“Our highways are jammed. People go to work in gridlock,” Feinstein said Tuesday.

Just two Republicans supported the move, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Christopher Bond of Missouri. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Judd Gregg, R-N.H., named Tuesday morning to become Commerce secretary, did not vote.

Senate debate unfolded as Obama issued another call for swift action on the measure, urging lawmakers to act “with the same sense of urgency Americans feel every day.”

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/2009020
3/ap_on_go_co/congress_stimulus

Related:
Stimulus: Some Loony Spending Requests in Obama Plan

Obama Choice of Panetta At CIA Gaining Support

January 10, 2009

Outgoing CIA Director Michael V. Hayden told employees Friday that his designated successor could learn more from them than the other way around.

“If confirmed by the Senate, he will learn from you about the CIA as it is now, starting with the decisive contributions you make each day to the strength and security of our country,” Mr. Hayden said of nominee Leon Panetta.

President-elect Barack Obama officially announced Friday that Mr. Panetta was his choice to head the CIA and that retired Adm. Dennis Blair would be the director of national intelligence. John O. Brennan will be Mr. Obama’s homeland security adviser and deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism, a post with the title assistant to the president and which is not subject to Senate confirmation.

By Sara Carter
The Washington Times

Michael V. Hayden

Michael V. Hayden

The choice of Mr. Panetta, which was leaked to the press earlier this week, has caused some controversy because he lacks direct experience in the intelligence community.

It provoked sharp criticism from senior Democrats, including the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Dianne Feinstein, of California, who was not informed about the pick in advance. She later recanted her criticism after speaking with Mr. Panetta.

Mr. Hayden, who had made clear his desire to continue in the new administration, told employees, “To facilitate a smooth transition, the president-elect has asked me to stay on until the confirmation process for a new director is complete, and I have agreed.”

He said he and his deputy, Steve Kappes, had met with Mr. Panetta and “came away deeply impressed with his candor and clear commitment to the welfare of the men and women of CIA. It was apparent to us that he is eager to immerse himself in the details of intelligence and espionage.”

Mr. Obama said during his announcement Friday, “We must seamlessly collect, analyze, share and act on information with a sense of urgency.” He said torture would not be an option, and intelligence agencies must not seek information “to suit any ideological agenda” — a slap at the Bush administration’s encouragement of the CIA and other intelligence organizations to seek information supporting the invasion of Iraq.

Leon Panetta 
Above: Leon Panetta.  Photo by AP

Mr. Panetta is known primarily for his budget and managerial expertise. He served in the House from 1977 to 1993 but was not a member of the intelligence committee. From 1993 to 1994, he ran the Office of Management and Budget. He was White House chief of staff from 1994 to 1997. In 2006, he served on the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which recommended major changes in U.S. policy toward Iraq and the Middle East.

The announcement of the Panetta selection surprised many within the CIA who thought Mr. Hayden would be retained for a number of months and who said Mr. Hayden had boosted morale within the agency.

According to intelligence officers, the attrition rate was nearly 6 percent when Mr. Hayden became director, and in the past two years it has dropped to 4.1 percent, the agency’s lowest rate on record. The rate of resignations is currently 1.8 percent, the officers said.

However, Robert Steele, the author of six books on intelligence and the founding senior civilian of the Marine Corps Intelligence Center, said that “Panetta is actually the first DCI of substance since Bill Casey, the first since Casey who will not be bamboozled by the insiders or bullied by Congress and special interests.”

Mr. Brennan, who was Mr. Obama’s campaign adviser on intelligence, was another candidate for head of the CIA but withdrew his name after some left-leaning bloggers accused him of complicity in crafting interrogation policies for detainees that critics say amounted to torture.

In his new post, however, Mr. Brennan may have more influence over national security than he would have had as CIA chief. The 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act made the agency subservient in many ways to the director of national intelligence for intelligence analysis.

The primary role for the CIA today is its clandestine service, which recruits spies. But the Pentagon in recent years has stepped up both its intelligence gathering and “black” operation capabilities.

While the power balance in the next administration is still to be determined, it’s likely that the national security council will wield more influence than it has under the Bush presidency, when national security advisers failed to reign in warring bureaucratic factions.

John Deutch, CIA director from 1995 to 1996, said it was important to look at Mr. Obama’s intelligence picks as a team.

“You have Blair, Panetta and Brennan. They have a mixture of backgrounds and the mix is unusually strong,” Mr. Deutch said.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/jan
/10/cias-hayden-impressed-with-panetta/

Obama To Make National Intelligence Nominations Today

January 9, 2009

President-elect Barack Obama will announce Friday that he is naming Leon Panetta as CIA director and Dennis Blair as director of national intelligence, two officials close to the transition told CNN Thursday.

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After a surprisingly heated reaction earlier this week to President-elect Barack Obama’s apparent selection of Leon Panetta as CIA director, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and the would-be spy chief appear to have put the matter behind them.

Read the rest:
http://www.usnews.com/articles/news/obama/2009/0
1/08/feinstein-softens-on-obamas-pick-of-panetta-to
-lead-the-cia.html

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Commentary from The Washington Times

The appointment of Adm. Blair, following unprecedented reappointment of Bush administration Defense Secretary Robert Gates, is guaranteed to antagonize many on the political left, Mr. Obama’s initial national base of core support. There is also more general concern about military dominance of intelligence. During the Bush administration, appointment of Gen. Michael Hayden to head the CIA drew some sharp attacks.

As with criticism of Mr. Panetta, this argument ignores history. The first four directors of the Central Intelligence Agency were all senior military officers: Rear Adm. Sidney Souers, Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg, Vice Adm. Roscoe Hillenkoetter, and Gen. Walter Bedell Smith.

Smith, notably successful at CIA, had been chief of staff to Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower during World War II. In retrospect, Ike and his team were remarkably effective in steering the United States through very turbulent Cold War years. Experience in the disciplined milieu of the military translated directly into success in the shadow scenery of the spy.

In tandem, Adm. Blair and Mr. Panetta may be an ideal team to bring effective policy change grounded in essential competence.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/200
9/jan/09/surprise-at-the-cia/

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From CNN:
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/
01/08/obama.intelligence.jobs/index.html

Obama Didn’t Want Man of Knowledge and Integrity at CIA

January 7, 2009

WOULD you ask your accountant to perform brain surgery on your child? That’s the closest analogy I can find to the choice of Democratic Party hack Leon Panetta to head the CIA.

Earth to President-elect Obama: Intelligence is serious. And infernally complicated. When we politicize it – as we have for 16 years – we get 9/11. Or, yes, Iraq.

The extreme left, to which Panetta’s nomination panders, howled that Bush and Cheney corrupted the intelligence system. Well, I worked in the intel world in the mid 1990s and saw how the Clinton team undermined the system’s integrity.

Al Qaeda a serious threat? The Clinton White House didn’t want to hear it. Clinton was the pioneer in corrupting intelligence. Bush was just a follow-on homesteader.

By Ralph Peters
New York Post

Now we’ve fallen so low that left-wing cadres can applaud the nomination of a CIA chief whose sole qualification is that he’s a party loyalist, untainted by experience.

The director’s job at the CIA isn’t a party favor. This is potentially a matter of life and death for thousands of Americans. But the choice of Panetta tells us all that Barack Obama doesn’t take intelligence seriously.

Mark my words: It’ll bite him in the butt.

After the military, the intel community is the most complex arm of government. You can’t do on-the-job training at the top. While a CIA boss needn’t be a career intelligence professional, he or she does need a deep familiarity with the purposes, capabilities, limitations and intricacies of intelligence.

Oh, and you’d better understand the intelligence bureaucracy.

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), who was blindsided – and appalled – by the Obama mafia’s choice, has the essential knowledge of how the system works. She, or a similar expert, should have gotten this nod. But the president-elect wanted a clean-slate yes-man, not a person of knowledge and integrity….

Read the rest:
http://www.nypost.com/seven/01072009/post
opinion/opedcolumnists/an_awful_pick_148973.htm

Pros and Cons of Picking Panetta for CIA

January 7, 2009

There are, I suspect, quite a few jobs in government for which having no experience is not a liability. But few would list CIA director among them. Which is why Barack Obama‘s pick of Leon Panetta is causing so much consternation.

A former congressman, Mr. Panetta, 70, served as budget director and then as chief of staff in the Clinton administration. But he’s never spent a day in the intelligence community.

The outgoing chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WVa), and the incoming chairman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), are cool to the choice. Both Ms. Feinstein and Mr. Rockefeller had recommended deputy director Steven Kappes.

By Jack Kelly
Real Clear Politics

Mr. Obama originally had planned to tap John Brennan, who was head of the National Counterterrorism Center at the time of his retirement in 2005. But the rumored appointment ignited a storm of protest from left wingers who opposed the coercive interrogation techniques the CIA used on some high level al Qaida prisoners.

“The fact that I was not involved in the decision-making process for any of these controversial policies and actions has been ignored,” Mr. Brennan said in a Nov. 26 letter withdrawing his name.

By yielding to Mr. Brennan’s critics, Mr. Obama made it all but impossible to pick anyone who held a senior position in the intelligence community during the Bush administration, which may be why Mr. Kappes was passed over.

If you think it dangerous, at a time when we are engaged in two wars, to have a novice at the CIA, then you’re likely appalled by the Panetta nomination.

But if you think of the CIA as a rogue, dysfunctional agency that needs to be reined in, you may think Mr. Obama’s choice is inspired.

Many of those worried about Mr. Panetta have an outdated view of the importance of the CIA. After 9/11 a huge new layer of bureaucracy was imposed on the intelligence community. This was mostly stupid, because there was too much bureaucracy already. But it made the CIA much less important.

Most of the intelligence we gather is collected by the National Security Agency, through its electronic eavesdropping, and by the satellite photos taken by the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

The CIA essentially got out of the HUMINT (human intelligence) business when the Clinton administration slashed its budget in the early 1990s. Most of such little intelligence as the CIA now gathers comes from interrogation of prisoners. But most prisoner interrogations are done by the military.

The CIA does still have its analysis branch, which has missed most of the major developments of the last 20 years. And analysis work has been migrating to the various multi-agency intelligence centers established after 9/11.

The real head cheese is the Director of National Intelligence. For DNI, Mr. Obama has selected retired Admiral Dennis Blair. He’s a former commander of Pacific Command and a former associate director of the CIA, a Rhodes scholar who once water-skied behind the destroyer he was commanding. Admiral Blair doesn’t need Mr. Panetta’s advice on intelligence matters.

But as a skilled bureaucratic infighter whose loyalty will be to the president and not to the CIA, Mr. Panetta may be, thinks Michael Ledeen, just the right guy “to watch Obama’s back at a place that’s full of stilettos and a track record for attempted presidential assassination second to none.”

Because I think the CIA requires wholesale reform, I think better of the Panetta nomination than most other commentators do. But I have two huge concerns.

It was Mr. Panetta, as President Clinton’s budget director, who gutted our HUMINT capability. And Mr. Panetta’s eagerness to define anything that makes terrorists uncomfortable as “torture” means we’ll be getting precious little information from future interrogations.

Mr. Obama is taking a big chance. If there is a successful terrorist attack on the U.S. during his watch, this is the appointment that will doom his presidency.

 

Biden Admits Mistake, Claims Ignorance on Intelligence

January 6, 2009

Vice-president-elect Joseph Biden admitted today the Obama transition team made a “mistake” in not notifying top Senate officials of the selection of Leon Panetta as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, defending the former Clinton White House chief of staff as a nominee would take the CIA on “new path.”

Biden told reporters in the Capitol that the Senate Intelligence Committee should have been consulted in advance of the Panetta nomination, which resulted in criticism from the panel’s top Democrats. The incoming chair, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and outgoing chairman, Sen. John “Jay” Rockefeller III (D-W. Va.), questioned the Panetta selection because of his lack of experience in the intelligence community.

By Paul Kane
The Washington Post

“I’m still a Senate man. I always think this way. It’s always good to talk to the requisite members of Congress. I think it was just a mistake,” Biden said after being sworn in today for another Senate term (he will resign his seat in advance of the Jan. 20 inauguration).

Biden said the issue was one of process, not substance, and that Panetta — as chief of staff and as White House budget director — had experience dealing with the CIA and the vast network of spy agencies. “He has been a consumer of intelligence for a long time,” Biden said.

He called Panetta “a strong figure” who would “take it on a new path.”

The surprise selection divided top Senate Democrats, as Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) has given a full-throated endorsement, and some Republicans have voiced doubts about Panetta’s experience, including Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond (Mo.), the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee.

Panetta does have a strong ally in a recent past chairman of the panel, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), who served in the House with Panetta and counts him as a “good friend”.

“From an outside, fresh-look approach, I think it’s a good thing,” Roberts said of Panetta’s selection. He said the nominee is a “fast learner” who will have the management skills to turn around the agency.

“He brings to the office tremendous experience,” Roberts said.

Related:
 New Congress Day 1: Where’s Rahm Emanuel?

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/the-trail/2009/01/06/bid
en_not_notifying_top_sens_o.html?hpid=topnews

Obama: “Utmost Respect” for CIA Choice Leon Panetta

January 6, 2009

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

Related:
 Obama’s CIA Pick from “Left Field” Agents Say; President-Elect Wants It That Way

What’s so bad about Panetta?
http://johnmcquaid.com/2009/01/06/whats-
wrong-with-panetta/

Read the Los Angeles Times story:
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation
/la-na-obama-cia-panetta6-2009jan06,0,5514283.story

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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.

Read the rest:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rj-eskow/feinstein
panetta-senatori_b_155627.html

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From Politico:

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?

Read more:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/politico/20090106
/pl_politico/17107_1