Monday, January 05, 2009

Obama's Choice For Director of Central Intelligence: Leon Panetta?!

Of all the people that President elect Barack Obama could choose to be Director of Central Intelligence, he picked a guy who has absolutely no intelligence experience, no military experience, and is strictly a numbers guy: Leon Panetta.

What does this say about Obama and the intel community from which he had choices?

Admiral Dennis Blair was also named to be national intelligence director, according to officials.

Panetta is qualified to be DCI why? How? What are his qualifications?

Admiral Blair is more qualified to be DCI than Panetta. Then again, according to Blair's wiki, he's got himself a thing for not following orders and odd relationships with defense contractors.

Is it an admission that there's no one qualified to run the intel business in the nation, so we've got to get a numbers guy to do it? Or just no one qualified that is a Democrat? Or that Obama couldn't find someone who wasn't associated with current intel policy that the far left could find satisfactory (aka opposed aggressive tactics to uncover terror plots, waterboarding, and other tactics used since 9/11 to prevent further terror attacks inside the US), or a combination of the above?

Panetta was calling for intel spending cuts during the 1990s at a time when Clinton's CIA director was warning against such a move?

Sen. Diane Feinstein is not a happy camper with the choice. The California Democrat wasn't informed of the choice. That's a polite way of saying, you never bothered to ask my opinion. She's not alone either. Sen. Jay Rockefeller echoes those sentiments; couldn't Obama have found someone with experience who opposed the aggressive interrogations, which the left construed as torture? Steve Kappes was apparently their choice; someone who had experience and opposed waterboarding.

I further disagree with Instapundit's take relying on Angelo Cordvilla about Panetta being a good choice to fight Obama's turf battles with the CIA to avoid the problems that dogged President Bush from 2001 onwards.

The CIA is a massive bureaucracy with its own inertia. It will do what it must to survive those who pass through. That means that there will always be people who oppose the President, regardless of which side of the aisle is in charge. There are partisans who think that they know better than the President or that they are the ones who make the decisions. They are the ones who leak information to the press, which often reports it regardless of the potential for undermining national security.

Panetta's selection wont fix any of that. If anything, it will make the problem worse since he has no understanding of the culture at CIA and no experience in intel matters. He's a bean counter, and a bad one at that given that he opted to cut the intel budget during the 1990s when al Qaeda was an emerging threat.

It's wishful thinking to believe that Panetta will fix the problems at CIA or will allow Obama to avoid the pitfalls that befell Bush. The reality is that bureaucracies the size, scope and nature of CIA are creatures unto themselves.

The thing is that someone has to get the CIA under control and to ensure that the nation gets the best intel possible from all sources - human and signal. It means dealing with unsavory characters. It means getting your hands dirty from time to time, but the end result should be an organization that is free of politics and puts the national interest first and foremost. Having opposing viewpoints proffered isn't a bad thing either, but it should be free of politics.

The Panetta choice does nothing to solve the problems, and shows that Obama is putting politics ahead of the best person for the job.

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