President-elect Obama picks Leon Panetta to head the CIA

I can’t add much to Jennifer Rubin’s commentary on what looks like a blatantly political pick.

It’s so bad that even two prominent Dem Senators, Rockefeller and Feinstein, have expressed serious reservations about Panetta’s level of experience … or should I say “lack thereof”?

President-elect Barack Obama has tapped former Clinton White House chief of staff Leon E. Panetta to head the CIA, a Democratic official confirmed Monday, but he may face some resistance on Capitol Hill.

The incoming and outgoing chairs of the Senate Intelligence Committee immediately signaled concerns about the pick, primarily because of Panetta’s thin resume on intelligence.

“I was not informed about the selection of Leon Panetta to be the CIA director. I know nothing about this, other than what I’ve read” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein , D-Calif., who will chair the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in the 111th Congress, in a written statement. “My position has consistently been that I believe the agency is best-served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time.”

An aide to Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV , D-W.Va., who served as chairman of the committee in the 110th Congress, said, “I think, based on press reporting if it proves correct, Sen. Rockefeller has some concerns about his selection. Not because he has any concerns about Panetta, whom he thinks very highly of, but because [Panetta] has no intelligence experience and because he has believed this has always been a position that should be outside of the political realm.”

The AP piles on, but only to make it clear that St. Obama is only doing this so he can clear out those dirty no-good Bush-era intelligence chiefs:

WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Barack Obama’s decision to fill the nation’s top intelligence jobs with two men short on direct experience in intelligence gathering surprised the spy community and signaled the Democrat’s intention for a clean break from Bush administration policies.

Former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, an eight-term congressional veteran and administrative expert, is being tapped to head the CIA. Retired Adm. Dennis Blair is Obama’s choice to be director of national intelligence, a selection expected for weeks, according to two Democrats who spoke on condition of anonymity because Obama has not officially announced the choices.

The Obama transition team’s long delay in selecting CIA and national intelligence directors is a reflection of the complicated demands of the jobs and Obama’s own policies and priorities.

Obama is sending an unequivocal message that controversial administration policies approving harsh interrogations, waterboarding and extraordinary renditions — the secret transfer of prisoners to other governments with a history of torture — and warrantless wiretapping are over, said several officials.

The search for Obama’s new CIA chief had been stalled since November, when John Brennan, Obama’s transition intelligence adviser, abruptly withdrew his name from consideration. Brennan said his potential nomination had sparked outrage among civil rights and human rights groups, who argued that he had not been outspoken enough in his condemnation of President George W. Bush’s policies.

And despite an internal list of former and current CIA officials who had impressive administrative credentials, all either worked in intelligence during the Bush administration’s development of controversial policies on interrogation and torture or earlier, during the months leading up to the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Neither Panetta nor Blair are tainted by associations with Bush administration policies, in large part because they both come from outside the intelligence world. Blair was posted at the CIA for about a year.

So lemme see here: We’ve got an inexperienced president-elect who has appointed a woman with scant foreign policy experience to the Sec. of State position, and shortly after that, picked two people with virtually no intelligence experience (save a year) as the head of the CIA and director of national intelligence respectively. Sounds like Blair has had a distinguished military career, but just one year experience in the CIA?

Dunno about you, but this gives me so much hope about our future foreign affairs/counterterrorism efforts that I could just burst. /sarc

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