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.