More On Panetta As New CIA Chief

January 7, 2009

Jeff Stein has this to say:

“In contrast to the field operatives, a numer of former top CIA officials have been telling me that Panetta, 70, could be a very good CIA director, despite his lack of experience.

In particular they cite his highly regarded tenure as Clinton’s Chief of Staff and familiarity with intelligence issues through his stewardship of the House Budget Committee and White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

As a longtime Washington powerbroker, he’ll also have the ‘juice’ to get President Obama’s ear, they say.

‘While intelligence experience is obviously desired, it is not absolutely essential,’ said former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin, by e-mail from London.

‘Other qualities are capacity to make decisions when there are no easy options and to take responsibility for them, situational awareness about the secondary and tertiary consequences of those decisions, good judgment about what is right, true, or advisable when presented with conflicting assessments — a common situation in a field where you are almost always dealing with incomplete information. An instinct for dealing with people — at the core of the job. The capacity to communicate clearly to a work force that needs an understanding of the larger picture in order to fit their discrete jobs into the broader mission.’

McLaughlin concluded, ‘From what I know of Panetta, he should be good at most of these things.’

Running the CIA, said another top former official, is not ‘neurology or rocket science.'”

Looks like Obama has successfully smoothed things over with Dianne Feinstein, too:

“Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the incoming chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says she intends to support President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for CIA chief, Leon Panetta.
Feinstein’s comments Wednesday came after she had earlier expressed reservations about the choice of Panetta, a former White House chief of staff without a formal background in the intelligence community. Obama had not consulted with Feinstein before making the choice, and subsequently apologized to her for the lapse.
Feinstein says she spoke with Panetta, a fellow Californian, for about 20 minutes on Tuesday evening and came away confident he’d surround himself with good personnel at the agency.” (AP)


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