The Islamic Post Blog


New Central Intelligence Agency Director ‘Human,’ ‘Straightforward’ by Khalida
February 2, 2009, 10:29 am
Filed under: February Volume I- 2009, National | Tags:

Leon Panetta chosen to make “assessments grounded solely in the facts, and not seek information to suit any ideological agenda.” -President Obama

By Khalida Khaleel

Islamic Post Staff Writer

The choice of former Clinton Administration White House Chief of Staff, Leon Panetta, as director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) under President Barack Obama has met with some ire, and much praise, for the same reason. He is perceived as not being the standard man for the job.
Director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, Steve Clemons characterizes Mr. Panetta as “human, smart, generally straightforward.” Clemon’s opinion seems to be one carried by the majority, even if “straightforward” is not the token description of the head of a master spy agency.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Senate’s incoming Intelligence committee chair, seemed to view the new CIA director as an unconventional choice when she said: “My position has consistently been that I believe the Agency is best-served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time.”
Frank James of the Washington Tribune argues, on the other hand, that “experience in the intelligence community has never been a good predictor of how well a person would lead the CIA,” bringing to the fore the example of George Tenet, CIA director under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and “long-time intelligence official who told George W. Bush that evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction was a “slam dunk.’” Mr. James also mentioned the CIA history of covert operations worldwide which have plagued the CIA with scandal, and also brought the United States into ill-repute.
Melvin A. Goodman, senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and 24-year veteran of the CIA’s intelligence directorate, when writing for The Baltimore Sun further elaborated on the matter: “Intelligence insiders have done little over the past two decades to prevent intelligence failures,” he writes. “They failed to understand the decline of the Soviet Union because the process had been politicized… They [also] failed to provide strategic warning of the 9/11 attacks, and they permitted the corruption of key intelligence products in the run-up to the Iraq war. Intelligence insiders, moreover, were responsible for enthusiastically endorsing such CIA practices as torture and abuse, extraordinary renditions and secret prisons. Mr. Panetta was not a part of this history.”
This last fact is believed by analysts to be a large part of the reason for President Obama’s choice. “Here in Washington, we have also learned some tough lessons,” said the President when formally announcing his choice of Mr. Panetta, “We have learned that to make pragmatic policy choices, we must insist on assessments grounded solely in the facts, and not seek information to suit any ideological agenda… And we know that to be truly secure, we must adhere to our values as vigilantly as we protect our safety – with no exceptions.”
President Obama thereafter listed Leon Panetta’s qualifications, which did include handling “intelligence daily at the very highest levels” along with “making the institutions of government work better for the American people.”
However, Mr. Goodman asserts “Mr. Panetta must touch base with key critics of the intelligence community – such as members of the 9/11 commission, key staff members of congressional oversight committees, and the CIA’s own inspector general – who are in a position to offer outside-the-box thinking on what the CIA should be.”

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