Leon Panetta To Head CIA

President-elect Obama today chose former Californian Congressman and Clinton OMB director and Chief of Staff Leon Panetta to head the beleaguered Central Intelligence Agency. While Panetta is the ultimate Washington insider, he has no direct intelligence experience and thus an outsider to the labyrinth that is the CIA. Panetta is primarily known as tough (and partisan) negotiator and highly regarded as a competent manager, an unusual trait in the outgoing Administration. He does boast significant foreign policy experience from his days in the White House and his participation on the Iraq Study Group. The pick, however, is meeting less than rave reviews on Capitol Hill.

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.

"My position has consistently been that I believe the agency is best-served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time," said Senator Dianne Feinstein who, as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, would be in charge of Mr. Panetta's confirmation.

The President has made his choice. Leon Panetta is a dedicated public servant with an impeccable record. And it should be noted that several previous CIA Directors had no intelligence experience when appointed. These include Stansfield M. Turner, John M. Deutch, John McCone and George H.W. Bush.

Here's his full bio courtesy of the Leon Panetta Institute for Public Policy of the California State University at Monterrey.

Born in Monterey in 1938 of Italian immigrant parents, Panetta attended both Catholic and public schools and worked on his family's farm in Carmel Valley, where he lives today with his wife Sylvia. He earned a B.A. magna cum laude from Santa Clara University and his J.D. from Santa Clara University Law School, where he was an editor of the Law Review. He served as a First Lieutenant in the Army from 1964 to 1966 and received the Army Commendation Medal.

Panetta first went to Washington in 1966, when he served as a legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Thomas H. Kuchel of California, the Senate Minority Whip. In 1969, he became Special Assistant to the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and then Director of the U.S. Office for Civil Rights, where he was responsible for enforcement of equal education laws. His book Bring Us Together (published in 1971) is an account of that experience. In 1970, he went to New York City, where he served as executive assistant to Mayor John Lindsay, overseeing the city's relations with the state and federal governments. Then, in 1971, he returned to California, where he practiced law in the Monterey firm of Panetta, Thompson & Panetta until he was elected to Congress in 1976.

Panetta was a U.S. Representative from California's 16th (now 17th) district from 1977 to 1993. As a House member, he was a key participant in the 1990 budget summit as well as every other budget summit during the 1980s. He authored the Hunger Prevention Act of 1988; the Fair Employment Practices Resolution extending civil rights protections to House employees for the first time; numerous successful measures to protect the California coast, including creation of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary; legislation that established Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement for hospice care for the terminally ill; and other legislation on a variety of education, health, agriculture and defense issues.

From 1989 to 1993, Panetta was chairman of the House Committee on the Budget. He also served as a member of that committee from 1979 to 1985. He chaired the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Domestic Marketing, Consumer Relations and Nutrition; the House Administration Committee's Subcommittee on Personnel and Police; and the Select Committee on Hunger's Task Force on Domestic Hunger. He also served as vice chairman of the Caucus of Vietnam Era Veterans in Congress and as a member of the President's Commission on Foreign Language and International Studies.

Panetta left Congress in 1993, at the beginning of his ninth term, to become Director of the Office of Management and Budget for the incoming Clinton administration. In that position, he was instrumental in developing the 1993 budget package that is widely credited with achieving a balanced federal budget and eventual budget surpluses.

Panetta was appointed Chief of Staff to President Clinton on July 17, 1994, and served in that position until January 20, 1997. He was the principal negotiator of the successful 1996 budget compromise, and was widely praised for bringing order and focus to White House operations and policy making.

Panetta is currently co-directs with his wife Sylvia the Leon & Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy, based at California State University, Monterey Bay - a university he helped establish on the site of the former U.S. Army base, Fort Ord. The Institute serves as a nonpartisan, not-for-profit study center for the advancement public policy, seeking in particular to attract thoughtful men and women to lives of public service.

More the selection from the New York Times. Frankly, it's an outside the box selection and I don't see that as a bad thing. And Leon Panetta is not one to shrink from a fight. He's tenacious. Most importantly, Leon Panetta knows that "torture is illegal, immoral, dangerous and counterproductive."

Tags: CIA, Leon Panetta, Senator Dianne Feinstein (all tags)



Re: Leon Panetta To Head CIA

I'll happily support anyone Feinstein tut tuts. She is one of the few living Democratic Senators I have seen in action behind the scenes, I was not impressed.

Panetta is someone I have a decent amount of respect for. It helps that he is not ambiguous about torture, unlike Senator Feinstein.

by souvarine 2009-01-05 12:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Leon Panetta To Head CIA

Even without the benefit of your firsthand experience, to me DiFi has always been unimpressive. In spite of her gender, she has always fit neatly into the good ol' boy network in DC. If Panetta worries her, that's just one more thing to recommend him.

by Spiffarino 2009-01-05 04:17PM | 0 recs
We need to get Panetta's back

If the pro-torture caucus wants to oppose him, we need to get his back. Phone calls, letters, lots of strongly-worded blog posts.

We can't let DiFi and the Republicans deep six this nomination.

by existenz 2009-01-05 05:55PM | 0 recs
Re: We need to get Panetta's back

So true. I'll definitely be pushing my Blue Dog DINO jerk of a congressman, Heath Shuler, to vote yea. Wish me luck...he's a piece of work.

by Spiffarino 2009-01-05 06:20PM | 0 recs
Re: I don't think the House votes on this

Yep, you're correct. I thought there was some kind of input from the House, but there isn't. Good enough...Shuler's a di*k.

by Spiffarino 2009-01-06 06:29PM | 0 recs
Agreeing with souvarine?!

How did it come to this?  For her hawkishness and sheer pusillanimity, Feinstein is the only Senator to whom I have bothered to write a complaint (several, actually).  I haven't met her, but it says terrible things about our system that she keeps getting re-elected.

I don't know enough about Panetta or CIA culture to have an opinion on the appointment, but Feinstein's opposition inclines me to think he's a good choice.

by username 2009-01-05 05:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Leon Panetta To Head CIA

I'm a little surprised, but it has the potential to be a good pick.  The question really is what the CIA director is expected to do - if the job is to be an efficient administrator, then intelligence experience is not necessarily required.

by rfahey22 2009-01-05 12:54PM | 0 recs
"The President has made his choice."
I want a Congress that's going to keep ANY president of ANY party on his toes, unlike the Republican Congress, which sought neither competence nor consistency from Bush.
I WANT oversight / second guessing / criticism where warranted.
PS - an honest question - - didn't Stansfield M. Turner, John M. Deutch, John McCone and George H.W. Bush have foreign policy experience?
by kosnomore 2009-01-05 12:54PM | 0 recs
Thanks for the info - -
it really was an innocent question.
I do think this is the pick that could get static.
by kosnomore 2009-01-05 01:12PM | 0 recs
Re: "The President has made his choice."

I agree with you on the oversight but generally speaking the President deserves to have his team confirmed. I am more concerned about Admiral Dennis  Blair's role in Timor Leste in 1999. If he disobeyed orders from the Clinton Administration to deliver a message to Indonesia's military authorities then he clearly is not fit to be Director of National Intelligence. Expect to hear more in the coming days from Indonesia experts on Admiral Blair.

by Charles Lemos 2009-01-05 05:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Leon Panetta To Head CIA

For an Intelligence professional - Valerie Plame

by antiHyde 2009-01-05 01:14PM | 0 recs
Valerie Plame to head CIA?

I believe that may be the coolest idea I've heard from anyone, ever.

by Spiffarino 2009-01-05 04:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Leon Panetta To Head CIA

Some positive and negative reactions courtesy of the incomparable Laura Rozen.

by Steve M 2009-01-05 01:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Leon Panetta To Head CIA

I have no opinion on this appointment. It seems weird but let's see.

As far as Dianne Feinstein's puzzlement, I wonder if someone can dig up any objections she had for Bush appointments in similar positions. Or does she attack mostly Democrats.

by Pravin 2009-01-05 01:30PM | 0 recs
shut up, Dianne

She supports Mukasey but rips Panetta.  Take a hike, DiFi.

by Tangie3 2009-01-05 05:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Leon Panetta To Head CIA

I was surprised. It seems like a much better pick that a lot of other names floating around. I tentatively support this pick, tentative because Obama has tended to support my progressive believes largely by accident.

by MNPundit 2009-01-05 01:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Leon Panetta To Head CIA

Terrible pick. The CIA needs at the crucial time someone with a background in intelligence. Panetta is not the guy. First bad pick by Obama and I suspect, Panetta will be in for a fight to be confirmed....awful pick...

by adb67 2009-01-05 01:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Leon Panetta To Head CIA

As stated above, CIA has been previously run "at crucial times" by people w/o a background in intelligence.  And #1 IMO is that we get someone who's got his hands CLEAN in regards to the torture issue.  How many intelligence-lifers, who are also pro-Democratic Party, would fit the bill on that score?  (Brennan didn't.)

Glenzilla's already done a once-over on the guy and hasn't taken out the knives.  If anything truly objectionable surfaces, we'll hear about it from the usual sources.  But "this is how it's usually done" it not a real mark against Panetta.

by tammanycall 2009-01-05 05:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Leon Panetta To Head CIA

The man has no qualification to run the CIA......why not just pick anyone at this point? No, Panetta has no qualification to run the CIa simply put. It makes no sense and will not get through confirmation. I dont know what Obama is thinking? It would be like asking A 4 Star General to be the treasury secretary....just foolish...

by adb67 2009-01-05 06:01PM | 0 recs
Re: What's wrong

I think you hit the nail on the head actually. Panetta knows what Intelligence Briefings should look like plus he's competent and very focused.

by Charles Lemos 2009-01-05 09:45PM | 0 recs
Re: What's wrong

Let me guess he also stayed at a Holiday Inn Express? So your reasoning is, he sat in on briefings and delivered info on behalf of the President? Are you kidding?

So if I sat in on a design meetings related to the manufacture of medical device, it woudl make me qualified to build and use the device in surgery?....

Your logic is flawed, This pick is as bad as Bush's pick to head FEMA was.......you people have your head int he sand or somewhere else.

by adb67 2009-01-06 06:56AM | 0 recs
Re: What's wrong

Oh please.  Even the co-chair of the 9/11 Commission says it's an excellent pick.

by Steve M 2009-01-06 07:32AM | 0 recs
He's not the only one
The wretched Kathryn Jean Lopez at NRO has an interview with a former CIA deep cover officer who says Panetta is a "brave choice."

The people who know the agency best know it desperately needs a leader with political savvy and substantial pull with the president, not another goddamned kowtowing insider. DiFi and JRock are bags of ass who are pissed because they wanted Obama to massage their massive egos. Well screw that.
by Spiffarino 2009-01-06 06:51PM | 0 recs
Panetta is an excellent pick

Bob Baer (former CIA covert operative and current intelligence editor for Time magazine online) says Panetta is the perfect choice. To paraphrase his argument, an intelligence professional would be the wrong pick. Intel pros take orders, they don't give them. Tenet was regularly chewed up and spit out by SecState and SecDef, the DCI's natural adversaries.

CIA desperately needs a political heavyweight who has the president's ear and no fear of powerhouses like Clinton and Gates. CIA has been falling apart since Bush took office, and it would decline even more if Obama chose another sycophant.

To sum up: Fuck DiFi and the rest of the compliant Senate insiders. Panetta is the right person for the job right now.

by Spiffarino 2009-01-06 06:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Leon Panetta To Head CIA

I suggest that the core issue is that President-elect Obama has made a specific decision about intelligence operations, namely that the critical objective now is to clear out the illicit domestic surveillers and torturers who are the primary menace to our civil liberties.

Expect also that California may be coming to DC, cap in hand, to correct for its fiscal profligacy, and the California Senators will need to have been in the Obama cheering section before that takes place.

by phillies 2009-01-05 02:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Leon Panetta To Head CIA

Yes I want the CIA run by choir boys.......unreal

by adb67 2009-01-05 04:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Leon Panetta To Head CIA

I love this choice. Gutsy and strong outsider.

by Jerome Armstrong 2009-01-06 05:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Leon Panetta To Head CIA

Sweet Jesus, is there nothing Obama can do right?

- for those who don't know it when they see it, this is snark.

by QTG 2009-01-06 06:24AM | 0 recs


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