Obama Formally Rolls Out Intelligence Team
By Anne E. Kornblut
President-elect Barack Obama announced Leon Panetta as his next Central Intelligence Agency director today, following through on a selection that provoked a backlash from some lawmakers and members of the intelligence community when news of it leaked earlier in the week.
Obama made the announcement as part of a broader roll-out of his national security team, starting with the appointment of retired Adm. Dennis Blair as his Director of National Intelligence. Obama praised both men's "core pragmatism" and said that, together, Blair and Panetta would "form a team that is uniquely qualified" to meet the intelligence challenges of the post-9/11 era, though he did not mention their specific agendas.
Obama went out of his way to describe Panetta as qualified for the position. Describing Panetta as "one of the finest public servants of our time," Obama said he would have his "complete trust and substantial clout" at the CIA, with the full authority of the White House behind him. "He has handled intelligence daily, at the very highest levels, and time and again he has demonstrated sound judgment, grace under fire, and complete integrity," Obama said.
Obama also announced John Brennan, who had initially been considered for the CIA post, as the Homeland Security Adviser, a post that may be folded into the National Security Council after Obama takes office. Brennan will also have the title of deputy National Security Adviser.
Mike McConnell, the current DNI, will retain an advisory position, Obama said.
Though the focus of the press conference was national security, Obama opened it with remarks about new job loss data that he said "only underscores the need for us to move with a sense of urgency and common purpose" to pass his stimulus package.
"This morning we received a stark reminder about how urgently action is needed," Obama said. "Clearly the situation is dire."
Posted at 11:16 AM ET on Jan 9, 2009
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