JANUARY 06, 2009
Even key Democrats are concerned that the agency under fire for intelligence failures involving the 2001 terrorist attacks and the Iraq war will be headed by a scandal-plagued Clinton Administration official with no intelligence experience.
Barack Obama’s controversial choice to head the Central Intelligence Agency—Clinton White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta—has caused quite an uproar among high-ranking members of his own party, including the new head (California Senator Dianne Feinstein) of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the committee’s outgoing leader (West Virginia Senator John D. Rockefeller).
Feinstein, who became the Senate Intelligence Committee’s first female head this week, was clearly miffed that she was not consulted about Panetta’s appointment and indicated that she might oppose it during confirmation hearings. Revealing that she was not even told about Panetta’s selection to be CIA director, the veteran legislator said the agency is best served by an intelligence professional.
Panetta clearly doesn’t fit the description but he does have some rather unique White House experience. As Bill Clinton’s chief of staff he was involved in a variety of scandals, including a massive illegal foreign campaign donation scheme that exchanged sleepovers in the Lincoln Bedroom for millions of dollars in contributions. Panetta was also heavily involved in Clinton’s affair with a young intern (Monica Lewinsky) who actually worked in the chief of staff’s office.
His direct involvement in Clinton White House corruption was so politically damaging that Panetta abruptly changed his plans to run for California governor after leaving Washington, instead creating an institute for public policy at a university in northern California.
Soon he will move back to the capital to run the intelligence agency that helps the government make crucial national security decisions. Now wonder intelligence officials and veteran lawmakers are worried.
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