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Posted at 12:50 PM ET, 12/ 5/2010

CIA's new top dog makes Christmas party debut

By Jeff Stein

CIA Director Leon J. Panetta left the CIA’s holiday party Friday night with his latest new staffer: Bravo, his Irish Setter.

"Bravo, an Irish Setter, is an important member of the Panetta family,” said an attendee who insisted on being referred to as “a source close to Panetta.”

“Before taking the helm at the CIA, the Director regularly took Bravo to work at the Panetta Institute. This was Bravo's first week on the job at Langley.”

The source close to Panetta said Bravo “attended meetings, roamed the Director's suite, and made quick friends with many CIA officials.”

Of course, the canine had to be cleared first. The burdensome background investigation evidently took 11 months, about the same time it takes the agency to clear an ordinary recruit, for Bravo to join Panetta at Langley.

“Now that Bravo is part of the CIA family,” the source added with holiday cheer, “that makes him--along with the agency's K-9 corps, which serves at home and overseas--one of the most highly cleared pooches on the planet. And in his first week at the CIA, he's shown he's well trained in the art of discretion."

As long as he gets regular walks, one presumes.

“Several hundred” people attended the party at CIA headquarters, the source said, including former agency directors Michael Hayden, James Woolsey and Stansfield Turner, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan and Michael Sulick, the recently retired chief of clandestine operations. George Tenet came last year, but not this.

Others among the approved glitterati: Senate Intelligence Committee honcha Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and her putative new counterpart in the House come January, Mike Rogers (R-Mich.); retired longtime CIA and homeland security official Charles E. Allen; and White House spokesman Bill Burton.

The messy WikiLeaks disclosures evidently did not prevent Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, from attending.

The usual passel of spy-beat journos showed up as well, including NBC’s Andrea Mitchell (with her husband former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan), seen simultaneously chatting up Brennan and Panetta; CIA-friendly writers Ron and Pam Kessler; Fox News’s Catherine Herridge (who has a new book on al-Qaeda’s American recruits coming out in June) and her husband JD, an Air Force major; and the New York Daily News’s six-foot-seven, bespoke and bearded James Meek, who towered over the crowd like Osama Bin Laden at a Taliban shura.

Panetta, 71, who mingled in the crowd with his wife, Sylvia, must have had his beloved Irish Setter on his mind from day one at the CIA. On his first day of work, he told top agency officials assembled in his seventh-floor office, "I noticed in the press that they said I'm the oldest director to take charge of the CIA. But I would remind you that the 'Best Dog in Show' this year at the annual Westminster Kennel Club show was a dog that was 10 years old. So, I come here as the best dog in show."

By Jeff Stein  | December 5, 2010; 12:50 PM ET
Categories:  Entertainment, Intelligence, Media  | Tags:  Andrea Mitchell, Bill Burton, Charles E. Allen, James Meek, James Woolsey, John Brennan, Leon J. Panetta, Michael Hayden, Michael Sulick, Rep. Mike Rogers, Ronald Kessler; Catherine Herridge, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Stansfield Turner  
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Thanks to Wikileaks, we're about to watch an empire crumble.

Posted by: GEarlMoore | December 5, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

I didn't know one still considered Andrea Mitchell to be a "journalist." JournOlist, perhaps?

Posted by: silencedogoodreturns | December 5, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

SpyTalk joins the ranks of WaPo's tabloid focus on celebritology.

Your next on spy watch!

Posted by: whocares666 | December 5, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Great, lets keep borrowing money from the Chinese so elitist government workers can have a party.

Posted by: metroman76 | December 5, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Irish Setters are impossible to train. Almost as bad as Schauzers.

Posted by: blasmaic | December 5, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Mr. P seems fully captured by the IC careerists. Perfect that he brings his cra**ing dog into a government office. How professional of him, regardless of what the dog does. And a poor example for the employees. Shows his high respect for this workplace. If he were Winston Churchill or somebody he could get away from that.

Posted by: axolotl | December 5, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

I'm amazed! Somebody is actually paid to write such garbage.Does anybody care about Panetta's dog...unless the mutt has the good judgment to relieve himself on a few of the celebrated guests.Andrea Mitchell and Dianne Feinstein would be a good start.

Posted by: bowspray | December 5, 2010 8:28 PM | Report abuse

Why is a foreign ambassador coming to a Christmas party at the CIA? Bizarre.

Posted by: robert_curley_jacobs | December 5, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

And to think that our taxpayer dollars are paying for this. If Pannetta wants to give a Christmas party for other than his own staff, do it at his own home and on his own dime. This "do" probably cost as much as the annual salary of a good agent handler (who is, in turn, being fired to reduce the deficit.)
And isn't Christmas coming early this year?

Posted by: DCNative41 | December 6, 2010 11:03 PM | Report abuse

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