Leon Panetta To Head CIA
by Charles Lemos, Mon Jan 05, 2009 at 12:38:08 PM EST
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."