The appointment of Leon Panetta to head the Central Intelligence Agency appears to be a sop to the MoveOn/Code Pink/Bill Ayers/AmeriKKKa segment of Obama’s base.
Ostensibly because he is a good far-leftwing bureaucrat, Panetta can be depended upon to end any aggressive interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding; to stop the extraordinary rendition program, so maligned under President Bush; and to end wiretaps of foreigners, approved by a Senate vote in which Obama concurred.
But expectations of Panetta should be tempered. His record is contradictory. The extraordinary rendition program was started on the Clinton/Panetta watch. That’s the same watch on which Osama bin-Laden could have been extradited from Sudan, but was left to plot 9/11 because of insufficient evidence to convict him of anything.
Osama’s civil rights were protected. We just never got a chance to read him his rights. If only Leon Panetta and Bill Clinton had applied their extraordinary rendition policy to bin-Laden, or approved water boarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed prior to 9/11.
What are the chances the second time around?
If, as DCIA, Panetta is effective in assigning a JAG to every CIA interrogation, he will have diverted CIA resources to oversight and compliance. If he is ineffective he will have diverted CIA resources to obfuscation and ass-kissing. In either case, it is not exactly a “slam dunk” (the phrase of a Clinton DCIA holdover) that Panetta’s appointment will enhance the civil liberties of Americans or improve our physical security. Given his manifest lack of qualifications for this job, it’s a bit like expecting a hen to guard the fox-house.
If Obama wanted some partisan, Clinton-retread, intelligence naif to reform the CIA, why not Sandy Berger? Though Berger’s trade-craft is less than stellar, he has at least some experience with clandestine ops. Yes, he was caught after stealing classified documents from the National Archives and subsequently destroying them, but he did manage to get away with it. Panetta doesn’t even know which end of the undergarment to stuff documents in.
This appointment must be regarded as curious given two wars in progress, a recent terrorist attack in India, and with Iran intent on producing a nuclear weapon. I’d have preferred Obama pay back his far-left supporters in a less critical post.