Friday, February 13, 2009

Senate confirmation of Panetta opens door to CIA X-Files

The U.S. Senate on Thursday night confirmed Leon Panetta as the new Director of the Central Intelligence Agency on a voice vote. A day earlier, on Wednesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee approved him without dissent. The new Committee Chair, Senator Dianne Feinstein, who initially expressed reservations about Panetta as the chief of the largest U.S. spy agency, said: "He has the integrity, the drive and the judgment to ensure that the CIA fulfills its mission of producing information critical to our national security without sacrificing our national values."

Panetta achieved prominence as President Clinton’s Chief of Staff (1994-1997). He is a veteran political insider and his supporters hope he can rebuild morale in the CIA which was badly tarnished by faulty intelligence assessments that led to the Iraq war. Significantly, Panetta is close to John Podesta who served as Panetta’s deputy during the Clinton Administration. Podesta eventually succeeded Panetta as Clinton’s Chief of Staff from 1998-2001. Podesta served as co-chair of Obama’s transition team, and the selection of Panetta reflected Podesta’s influence.

Podesta has been an outspoken advocate of increased declassification of government documents...

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