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Is Panetta Qualified?

Our Readers Who Comment are of two minds about whether Leon E. Panetta should be the new CIA Director. Some think it's great. Some think it demonstrates that President-elect Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing.

On the surface Panetta's intelligence experience consists of sitting in on intelligence briefings when he was President Clinton's chief of staff. He is a former budget director and has long been regarded as a competent manager.

A lot of the complaining on Capitol Hill is coming from the Senate Intelligence Committee, whose chair, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and former chair, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) were not consulted before Panetta's name became public. Obama called them to apologize. Interestingly, a number of our readers hold Feinstein and Rockefeller accountable for a lot that has gone wrong with the CIA -- including torture -- and have little concern about Obama's political error.

Comments are similarly divided on David Ignatius's column calling Panetta a surprising but good choice. Ignatius is a long-time student of the CIA and a spy novelist.

We'll start with comments on the news story and Samson151, who wrote, " 'Opaque'? The CIA is complaining because something wasn't transparent?... Good luck, Leon. These guys are a handful."

HughBriss said, "...Obama's selection of Leon Panetta is a great choice, showing that he is serious about turning over some of the rocks at CIA and seeing what vermin have taken up residence beneath them."

But surfer-joe wrote, "Of all the choices Obama has made..., Panetta is one of, if not the worst... Sticking a old democrat retread in will be a disaster of the first order. Obama needs to rethink this one. Panetta needs to decline to serve and retire from all government service."

the_orange_cowboy wrote, "Let Obama work his plan. We were attacked on Bush's watch. I didn't hear many complaints about his competence or the competence of those he appointed. And who was it that told us Iraq was about to nuke us?"

carlsonchaf said, "...Leon Panetta is hardly a flaming radical. I know, he was my congressional rep. Let's give him a chance to see if he can balance the mission of the agency with with their legal restrictions before we crucify the man. I think he is the best we can hope for from the new administration for now."

josephfranklyn wrote, "Feinstein, Reid, market collapse, government intrusion on personal rights, torture, war....all happened on their watch with nary a meaningfully opposing peep....the last thing we need in a new administration is for one of their cronies to be head of anything...."

And johnbsmrk said, "...Considering that Feinstein and Rockefeller were MIA during some of the most egregious abuses by the CIA and administration I wouldn't lose a lot of sleep over that. If fact I suspect a lot of Feinstein's ruffled feathers are because she realizes that Panetta has a well developed network... and she's not going to be able to push him around as she would some relatively unknown figure from within the agency. Panetta is an outstanding public servant and an inspired choice."

MNUSA said, "Unfortunately some members of Congress are also "tainted" by the use of torture and thus complicit in war crimes... The time for vocal objections should have been when they found out our nation was torturing prisoners, not when they feel personally slighted."

But mrshep wrote, "It was a bad choice not consulting the committee"

nodebris said, "Democrats should feel free to criticize Obama for any procedural mistakes he has made in this appointment. But they should think long and hard before they escalate their criticisms beyond that... I love hearing Republicans complain about any nominee or appointee to anything being unqualified..."

fzdybel wrote, "Oh dear, Obama didn't select a lunatic to run the asylum, as in years past. Gee, maybe the CIA really doesn't need to be consulted on who its next director is. I hope Panetta brings a 2x4 to use for first getting the donkey's attention."

Maryann261 said, "Obama has no real foreign policy experience, truly no experience other than campaigning. Obama appoints Panetta, who has little or no experience in foreign affairs. This is another example of Obama's bad judgment..."

All comments on this article are here.

Now we'll turn to comments on David Ignatius's column.

PaulG2 wrote, "We have a long tradition of civilian control of the military, and there are sound reasons for this... Given the abuses of power and failures we have seen in recent years, particularly in the CIA, doesn't the same doctrine make sense here? Isn't it the insiders who usually get us into these messes?"

wege1 said, "I suspect there is some resentment at the management level that there was an actual consequence for blindly following orders to torture the prisoners in that said management is now not under consideration for future leadership positions."

nicekid wrote, "Despite Feinstein's and Rockefeller's collective as well as general GOP obstructionism, the choice of Panetta makes sense. The designee needs to be someone who has not been involved in the intelligence arena during the tainted Bush years, but who is familiar with the intelligence world generally..."

But sapitos44 said that Barack Obama "...himself has no experience, substantial experience in politics. So, it makes sense that he would pick people like him."

We'll close with turningfool, who wrote, "The head of the CIA needs to be a good manager; he or she does not need to be a former spook. Panetta is a great choice who will restore the CIA's role after its abuse by the Cheney-Bush clique. You won't hear much complaining from CIA veterans..."

All comments on the column are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  January 7, 2009; 6:58 AM ET
Categories:  CIA , Intelligence  | Tags: CIA, Intelligence, Panetta  
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Was John McCone qualified? Was Tenet qualified? Was McLaughlin qualified? Was Goss qualified? Is Hayden qualified?
I believe the best qualified person to put in that position would be Robert Gates, and have Panetta move over to Secretary of Defense.
The balliwick of Iraq is such that the end game really is not in sight anytime soon, perhaps it would of been though if Gates, Keane, Mullen, Ordiero, McMaster, and Petreaus were involved in direct SOG decisions from the get go, and as General Franks used to say we would roll up Iraq in a couple of weeks. Obama has his hands full and I firmly believe now is not the time to put the chickens in the fox den.

Posted by: Sideswiped | January 8, 2009 2:03 AM | Report abuse

it's a perfect choice. a hard nosed manager who knows exactly what the president needs to know and why, having served as chief of staff and listened to what the pres got from the CIA for years.

you don't need a subject matter expert as the boss. you don't look to your CEO for expertise, if it isn't present below that level, you are in deep trouble. the CEO is supposed to provide the oversight and the judgment and select the mission based on sound advice from below, which he or she has been selected on the basis of being smart enough to recognize when he or she sees it. that's what Panetta brings to the table. judgement and experience in government. the director isn't a spy any more than the Sec Def is a soldier.

Posted by: JoeT1 | January 7, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

I am a socially conservative Republican.

I did not vote for P.E. Obama.

I like Panetta. He is a decent, upright man who served Clinton well.

There is a place for Panetta in Obama's cabinent but NOT CIA director. He does not have the right experience.

I would prefer to see Panetta as Chief of Staff and not that crud, Emmanuel.

Posted by: furtdw | January 7, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm, yes. And Michael Brown was a great pick for FEMA head - so qualified to run a major government agency.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | January 7, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

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