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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Obama Chooses Leon Panetta As Director Of CIA

Leon Panetta, former Clinton administration Chief of Staff, has been chosen by Obama to be his next CIA director, which in turn is pulling in some criticism from Senate Democrats such as Dianne Feinstein and Jay Rockefeller.

The concern by Feinstein, who is the Senate’s incoming Intelligence committee chair and Rockefeller who is the current Chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, seems to be Panetta's lack of intelligence or counterterrorism experience, as explained by The Caucus.

President-elect Barack Obama has selected Leon E. Panetta, the former congressman and White House chief of staff, to take over the Central Intelligence Agency, an organization that Mr. Obama criticized during the campaign for using interrogation methods he decried as torture, Democratic officials said Monday.

Yet the choice encountered early opposition on Capitol Hill, with some senior Democrats questioning why the president-elect would pick a C.I.A. chief without a deep reservoir of intelligence or counterterrorism experience.

Feinstein was quoted by CNN's Political Ticker as saying in a prepared statement, "My position has consistently been that I believe the Agency is best-served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time.”

MSNBC First Read, shows Rockefeller's concerns:

An aide to current Chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, tells NBC News that while the senator has tremendous respect for Leon Panetta, the aide said he believes the CIA director should go to someone who has significant intelligence experience and someone from outside the political world of Washington D.C.

Feinstein also says she had not been notified of the Obama pick ahead of time.

More on Leon Panetta's congressional work can be found at Wiki.

During his time in Congress, his work concentrated mostly on budget issues, civil rights, education, health, and environmental issues, particularly preventing oil drilling off the California coast. He wrote the Hunger Prevention Act (Public Law 100-435) of 1988 and the Fair Employment Practices Resolution. He was a major factor in establishing the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

His positions included:

* Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on the Budget
* Chairman of the Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Domestic Marketing, Consumer Relations, and Nutrition
* Chairman of the Administration Committee's Subcommittee on Personnel and Police
* Chairman of the Task Force on Domestic Hunger created by the U.S. House Select Committee on Hunger
* Vice Chairman of the Caucus of Vietnam-Era Veterans in Congress
* Member of the President's Commission on Foreign Language and International Studies.

More from The Caucus:

Mr. Panetta has a reputation in Washington as a competent manager with strong background in budget issues, but has little hands-on intelligence experience. If confirmed by the Senate, he will take control of the agency most directly responsible for hunting senior Al Qaeda leaders around the globe, but one that has been buffeted since the Sept. 11 attacks by leadership changes and morale problems.

Given his background, Mr. Panetta is a somewhat unusual choice to lead the C.I.A., an agency that has been unwelcoming to previous directors perceived as outsiders, such as Stansfield M. Turner and John M. Deutch. But his selection 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.

Aides have said Mr. Obama had originally hoped to select a C.I.A. head with extensive field experience, especially in combating terrorist networks. But his first choice for the job, John O. Brennan, had to withdraw his name amidst criticism over his role in the formation of the C.I.A’s detention and interrogation program after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Commentary Magazine seems to put it best with a little snark, stating "Two Democratic Senate Intelligence Committe veterans, Sen. Diane Feinstein and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, slam the Panetta pick. They apparently think we need an intelligence professional to run an intelligence agency. How whacky is that?"

Reactions from both sides of the blogosphere can be found at Memeorandum.