As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Panetta Saga

So now Joe Biden is acknowledging a mistake in the transition not informing the Senate Intelligence Committee chair about the choice of Leon Panetta for CIA Director, which was probably leaked, because there's no reason to intentionally antagonize the Committee Chair who will direct the confirmation hearings. I guess Obama talked it over with Feinstein, and apologized. Other committee members, including Ron Wyden, were consulted beforehand, suggesting that Obama really did want a break with the capitulationist elements of the Senate Democrats. Scott Horton considers this a plus.

So why would the Obama team, which has been so careful and thoughtful in approaching the nominations process, have failed even to consult the two Democratic senators who have the most to say about intelligence? I don’t think this was accidental. I read something else into it. The bottom line is that Jay Rockefeller was an abject failure when it came to intelligence oversight. His term as ranking member and then chair of the Senate intelligence committee was one in which Congress generally, and the Senate in particular, failed to live up to their Constitutional mandate. The intelligence community was steered by the Bush Administration into a series of criminal escapades. Effective congressional oversight would have exposed these failings and brought them to heel. But the Rockefeller-Feinstein record was little short of disastrous. I’m delighted that the Obama team didn’t consult them.

Feinstein, for her part, has commented further, saying that she understands the desire for a break with the past, but that she also wants the same guy working in Bush's CIA to stay on.

"I understand their thinking" in choosing Panetta, Feinstein explained, describing herself as "very respectful of the president's authority ... this is the man [Obama has chosen]."

I asked Feinstein whether her reticence about Panetta's lack of ties to the CIA would be mitigated by having Steven Kappes, her preferred choice for CIA director, stay on as the agency's No 2. "I believe very strongly" that Kappes should stay, Feinstein said, adding that Panetta's standing would be "very much enhanced" were Kappes to stay his deputy.

The entire point of the Panetta pick would be undermined by a #2 like Kappes. That would be a huge mistake IMO. And the idea that a CIA Director needs "experience" in intelligence matters flies in the face of history. Several good leaders at CIA had no intel experience whatsoever.

Meanwhile, Russ Feingold loves the Panetta pick.

I am pleased by reports of the nomination of Leon Panetta to be the next CIA Director. These reports indicate that President-elect Obama recognizes the need for fresh leadership for the intelligence community. Leon Panetta has a long and distinguished career in public service and there are few people of whom I have a higher opinion. He has been a strong voice opposing the interrogation practices authorized by the Bush Administration and he is well-equipped to restore our national security, which has been undermined by the current administration's policies. I look forward to closely examining his record, hearing his plans for protecting our nation against al Qaeda and other threats, and learning how he will help restore the rule of law after years of lawlessness that have undermined our national security.

This whole thing could be as simple as courtliness and some random fights in California (maybe going back to when Panetta and Jane Harman, who was up for the job, ran against one another for Governor in 1998). But the insistence on Kappes suggests this is a body-burying effort.

...Ezra Klein scores an interview with Sen. Wyden, who says that DiFi is about to introduce legislation to "end torture and close Guantanamo." Well, we shall see, but everyone trying to get to the left of one another on this issue is a good thing.

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