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Posted at 8:44 AM ET, 03/10/2011

CIA chief Panetta praises columnist Broder

By Jeff Stein

CIA Director Leon Panetta joined President Obama and other prominent officials Wednesday in praising longtime Washington Post political columnist David Broder, who died earlier in the day from complications from diabetes. He was 81.

Panetta called Broder, who worked at The Post for more than 40 years, "the best in the journalism business."

"For more than four decades, David Broder made sense of American politics and the sometimes messy system of governing called democracy," Panetta said in a statement released by the CIA.

"His prolific reporting and commentary did more than inform readers; it helped raise the level of debate in Washington and across our nation. He challenged us to think critically and honestly about the biggest public policy issues of the day. In so doing, he helped make politics and government more responsive to the American people, and ultimately, more effective," Panetta said. "He was, quite simply, the best in the journalism business."

The relationship between Broder and Panetta, a former eight-term Democratic congressman from California who also served as President Clinton's chief of staff, went back decades.

In March 1999, Panetta invited Broder and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) to lecture on politics and the media at the Panetta Institute in Monterey Bay, Calif., which the future CIA director founded with his wife in 1997.

In 2009, Broder criticized the decision of Attorney General Eric Holder to name a special prosecutor to investigate the CIA's terrorist interrogation practices, calling Panetta a "conscientious director" who could be trusted to keep the agency honest. Holder's decision, he wrote, would have a "harmful effect on the morale and operations of his agency."

Broder's column drew fire from a former CIA intelligence analyst, Melvin A. Goodman.

"No," Goodman wrote, "morale was compromised by high-level CIA officials such as George 'slam dunk' Tenet, who tailored intelligence to go to war against Iraq, and Porter Goss and Michael Hayden, who used outside contractors to build secret prisons, conduct extraordinary renditions, and engage in torture and abuse."

By Jeff Stein  | March 10, 2011; 8:44 AM ET
Categories:  Congress, Intelligence, Politics  
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