President-elect Barack Obama said yesterday that he has selected a “top-notch intelligence team” that would provide the “unvarnished” information his administration needs, rather than “what they think the president wants to hear.”
But current and former intelligence officials expressed sharp resentment over Obama’s choice of Leon E. Panetta as CIA director and suggested that the agency suffers from incompetent leadership and low morale. “People who suggest morale is low don’t have a clue about what’s going on now,” said CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield, citing recent personnel reforms under Director Michael V. Hayden.
By Karen DeYoung and Joby Warrick
The Washington Post
On Capitol Hill, Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence were still stewing over Obama not consulting them on the choice before it was leaked Monday and continued to question Panetta’s intelligence experience. Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. acknowledged that the transition team had made a “mistake” in not consulting or even notifying congressional leaders, and Obama telephoned committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and her predecessor, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), yesterday to apologize.
“Obama trusts [Panetta] — that’s a huge plus,” committee member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said, citing Panetta’s management expertise as Clinton White House chief of staff and budget director. But “after the past 24 hours, Leon Panetta is likely to get a good grilling” at his confirmation hearing, Wyden said.