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CIA pick Panetta: "We cannot and we must not use torture under any circumstances."

Here. Of course, "we do not torture," and the Village doesn't want any Villager held accountable for anything, ever, but still, encouraging signs. I mean, imagine if Hayden were kept on as a holdover in the spirit of bi-partisanship.

So, while I'm definitely in "hope but verify" mode, I regard this as a good sign. The CIA doesn't need a technical expert at the top; they need an actual manager. By all accounts Panetta is that.

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amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

How Obama's New Intelligence Chief Ran Interference for Indonesia's Butchers --
The Skeletons in Dennis Blair's Closet --

... human rights supporters are right to be worried that Dennis Blair will hardly lead the charge for reform in the nation’s intelligence community after the Bush Administration’s embrace of torture, rendition and other crimes. For in the period leading up to and following East Timor’s August 1999 referendum on independence from Indonesia Blair, from his perch as US Commander in Chief of the Pacific (CINCPAC) from February 1999 to May 2000, ran interference for the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) as they and their militia proxies committed crimes against humanity on an awesome scale.

...

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

With Dennis Blair, Don't Expect Smarter Intelligence --

... like most military officers, Blair is a believer in tactical intelligence. Let me explain why that's problematic: During the last Gulf war, the Pentagon badgered the CIA for things like sand samples and stress limits of Iraq bridges, the terrain its Abrams tanks would roll across. Yes, that information was nice to have, but such requests diverted CIA resources from strategic intelligence. Rather than answering the question of whether Saddam had kept his weapons of mass destruction, the CIA sent its clandestine sources into Iraq with baggies and little plastic shovels.

On top of it, the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have diminished the role of the CIA. It's the military in those two countries that collects the body of intelligence. Pragmatically, it couldn't have been otherwise. A lieutenant leading a patrol through an Iraqi village is much more likely to collect relevant information than a CIA officer confined to an office.

Whatever Blair's personal biases and inclinations are, as long as the U.S. remains in Iraq and Afghanistan, fighting two wars that have neither been won nor lost, he will have no choice but defer to the Pentagon. You can't fight over money and people in the middle of hot wars. If the Pentagon says it needs sand samples, that's what the intelligence community has to go out and get.

Leaving Robert Gates at the Pentagon and appointing Blair as DNI is a pretty clear sign that Obama intends to live with the national security status quo. Obama knows all too well that intelligence reform is the third rail of American politics, one he does not intend to touch as long the country teeters on the edge of depression. ...

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

-- Friction on Panetta --

... “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 Senator Feinstein, who will chair the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in the 111th Congress.

“My position has consistently been that I believe the Agency is best-served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time.”

That seems to reflect the view inside the CIA, and suggests a tough confirmation hearing.

Submitted by lambert on

This DiFi?

If DiFi's got her knickers in a twist, I couldn't be more pleased. As I said, the Gang of Eight system has totally compromised Congress. If the "professionals" try to knife Obama, maybe he'll see sense and put them on trial for war crimes.

Damon's picture
Submitted by Damon on

Quite frankly, I don't care what Panetta has to say about his job; he's hardly the right choice for the job. This is probably the most egregious of Obama's picks. He seems to have a knack for misidentifying strengths, talents, and experience and thus placing people into offices in which they don't belong, if you ask me. It kind of reminds me how Obama got his job. He can come across as a nice enough guy, though, barely suited to the task. I'm sure Mother Teresa was against torture, too. It doesn't mean I want to see her as head of the CIA.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

and Gates is a short-timer, 18-24 months at most. By the end of Obama's first two years the whole intelligence apparatus will have changed completely and I anticipate for the better.

Watched Panetta very closely during the workup to the new Denver International Airport and as much as I disagreed with everything he did I was certainly impressed with his mastery of the system and how easily he forced the various agencies involved to dance to his tune. He's not one of my favorites, DIA is a horror, but if you want someone to whip an agency into shape Leon is your guy - he reads people like a book and has no scruples when it comes to getting what he wants.

What we still don't know clearly is Obama's take on intelligence policy and that is what matters more than who he taps to head the departments. Regards torture, though, Panetta has been more than clear and I can't see Obama placing him atop CIA unless he actually intends to put an end to the practices.

Regards Feinstein, maybe this is the first hint from the new team that she should seriously consider a run for California governor.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

putting it in short form: they've got too much history, too much rivalry, and too many regulations. those who want to torture and run little private kingdoms of slavery and embezzlement have moved on to the next big thing: the new agencies. and the 'new and improved' agencies. DHS, various hardly discussed internationally oriented DoD aspects, "independent" contracting intel services, and of course the ever growing NSA. who needs the CIA, with all that oversight and public scrutiny, when you can be even more shadowy and have an even less open budget? also, that whole "establishment" thing in the intel world: old timers and the scions of the old time dynasties may still go to CIA, but the dusty "hookers, limos and blow" intel people of this world? feh. who needs all that studying to learn languages and getting good with martial arts? that's not where the real money and power are.

panetta is a good "manager," i'm told. that's not wholly a bad thing. i anticipate he'll run damage control, ass covering, and various other bureaucratic games for the O admin, as they seek to clean up (without really cleaning up) bush's various nightmares and messes. i'm less and less interested in CIA every day, as i think their heyday as "chief spooks" has come and gone.

Submitted by lambert on

How about some more gardening to go with MF's post?

And let me ask the obvious question:

If they CIA's heyday as chief spooks is over, who's replaced them? Has the function been privatized?

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

no link, just read it a while ago elsewhere. so there's that. her hubby has been deep in MIC contracting for a while, and she's part of that 'gang of 8' pro torture element in the senate, so if she doesn't like him, it can be all bad.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

i will soon post what you really want:

seed exchange

and

LONDON!!!

but also: museums. which are much more interesting than just shots of a city we'd all really like to live in, should we be fortunate enough.

heh. how jealous are you that i got to party with Avedon? she's a hoot. you have no idea how much.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

Foreign Policy -- 00-Huh? Former intel officials react to Panetta CIA pick --

... The latest word from some who had been informally advising the Obama campaign on intelligence matters the past few days was that the Obama people were going to let expected Director of National Intelligence nominee retired Adm. Dennis Blair have a big hand in picking the CIA director (and take responsibility for the decision). The Obama people, it was said, were inclined to pick someone "not political" in order to avoid some of the unhappiness of, say, the Porter Goss period. And given how the Obama team was hammered by the left for considering former senior intelligence official John Brennan to be CIA director, Obama would be disinclined to pick someone closely associated with the intelligence controversies of the recent Bush-Tenet era. In the end, only that latter hunch proved correct.

"My initial reaction is, I am sorry that there was felt a need to replace the current director," former senior CIA official Paul Pillar, now with Georgetown University told me. "Gen. [Michael] Hayden is a military and intelligence but primarily intelligence professional who has performed his duties in each job he has held in an honorable fashion, so far as I have knowledge of them."

Asked if the Obama team was making a politically safe choice over someone with known deeper experience on intelligence matters, Pillar demurred. "There has been enough controversy over enough of these issues involving the intelligence community. And there has been enough expectation and demand for change, that I expect it was felt amongst the president elect's advisors, whatever their personal view of what is right, that the political context and environment was such that a change was required."

A former senior CIA manager said the message of the Panetta appointment was clear: "The message is, 'I don't want to hear anything out of the CIA. Make it go away. No scandals. Keep it quiet,'" the former officer told me. "They put over there a guy who is a political loyalist, who will keep everything nice and quiet, but who won't know a good piece of intelligence from a shitty piece of intelligence, and wouldn't know a good intelligence officer" from a bad one.

But former intelligence analyst Greg Treverton, now with the Rand Corporation, said Panetta's experience as a former White House chief of staff might give him a unique understanding of the presidency and its needs for intelligence. "One of my experiences with people like Panetta who have been chief of staff is that they have a clear sense of what is helpful to the president that most senior officials don't," Treverton told me. "They get it. What he could do and couldn't do. And that's an interesting advantage Panetta brings. Knowledge of what the presidential stakes are like, how issues arise, and what they need to be protected from, for better or worse." ...

(more reaction there -- note who is named and who's anonymous, and who/what they're connected to, too)

Submitted by lambert on

And that's bad why?

Obama, with Panetta, has made a slightly less rotten choice among the many, many worse choices that could be made; re-appointing Hayden, for example, or somebody like Harmon. I don't see why that's so hard to accept. We're the reality-based community, aren 't we?

And I'd rather frame this is being against torture and hold them to it going forward, then get into the "whatever Obama does is teh suxx0r" mode. Eh?

Damon's picture
Submitted by Damon on

You're awfully easy to please, these days. I actually like (or harbor no ill-will towards) Panetta as a person. But, simply putting down a no-torture require as the only reason to settle for him is awfully weak tea. How I take, it's as if asking for someone with some experience plus someone against torture would be seen as searching for a unicorn, with you.

I'm not sure about the others, but I can tell you that I'm not against Panetta simply because Obama picked him. I'd hope that you're not inching towards "he hasn't even done anything yet", because there is a hint of that, here. I'd also hope that asking that your CIA head had some experience in the intelligence field wouldn't be seen as asking for too much.

Submitted by lambert on

amberglow:

Managers get hired all the time in fields they don't have expertise in.

I have yet to hear a plausible alternative nominee from you, either. Who's the good nominee not implicated in torture? DiFi? Not.

If everything Obama does is wrong, then you have no credibility to call him out when he really fucks up -- as he did with FISA, the bailout, and will again. It's not my standards for politicians that are the issue here, amberglow, but your standards for what you post.

Last I checked, the primaries were over. The wrong guy won, with tactics we know all too well, and people I know are in danger of getting seriously fucked because of that. That doesn't alter the reality that Obama will shortly be in office, and in power. We'd better get to know the guy and build a good model of him, for our own sanity and survival. That includes strong points and weak points. Let's not confuse incessant nattering with critical thinking, shall we? Bringing DiFi -- for pity's sake -- into the fray as ammo against the Panetta choice is exactly the kind of "any stick to beat a dog" argumentation that the OFB used against Hillary in the primaries. Same style of thought. Purely instrumental, no intellectual integrity at all. Let's elevate our game, shall we?

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

and people hired for jobs they have no expertise in --and in fields they don't know --most often don't do a good job.

and Government agencies are not like a CEO from WalMart going to Hewlett-Packard or vice versa. Or even a Wall St guy going to the Fed -- there they at least have relevant experience.

Panetta and many others of Obama's picks don't have the relevant expertise for the job they've been hired to do. It's fact. Put Panetta at CBO or something purely administrative -- or something domestic. Put Clinton at Health instead of State. Put most of them in different -- and most importantly -- more relevant --slots, and i wouldn't be complaining.

You and many others are using speeches and op-eds as if that counts as experience. it doesn't. and looking at who would have been worse. that's not good enough. It's like when they said Obama "running his campaign" was relevant experience. It's not.

Because he sat in on PDBs doesn't mean he helped create them. Because he ran the WH doesn't mean he had any say in how the CIA was run.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

being said about him --

Panetta's Lament: They Had No Plan

... On the now-deposed campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle, Mr. Panetta said, “Solis was someone who was obviously close to the [former] First Lady and had good relations with her, but again she didn’t have the experience that you need.” ...

Plus, he's going to be working very closely with State -- is he still close with Hillary now? Was he when they were both in the WH?

This Einhorn guy -- and Anthony Lake too -- sounds like they'd have been better picks too, btw -- Best And Brightest Of Clinton Hands Seek Obama Treaty: Panetta Suggests Barack Import Hillary ‘Oomph’To His Foreign Team

Submitted by lambert on

Great to see that the alternative to Panetta I repeatedly asked for was so obvious -- "This Einhorn guy." How could I have missed that?

Any stick to beat a dog, amberglow. It's getting ridiculous. Have you been taking lessons from bringiton?

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

and i found them relevant to him and to the job -- and to how ppl are rationalizing and qualifying his fitness for it. (a la you -- here)

not any stick to beat a dog -- unless your talk of "intellectual integrity" in the same breath as this is is the "dog" --

We'd better get to know the guy and build a good model of him, for our own sanity and survival. That includes strong points and weak points. Let's not confuse incessant nattering with critical thinking, shall we? Bringing DiFi -- for pity's sake -- into the fray as ammo against the Panetta choice is exactly the kind of "any stick to beat a dog" argumentation that the OFB used against Hillary in the primaries. Same style of thought. Purely instrumental, no intellectual integrity at all. Let's elevate our game, shall we?

Critical thinking and intellectual integrity would require assessment of things and people and actions independent of building "a good model" -- and would be consistent and applicable to all government appointees/ positions/ and actions at all times.

Unless all your "bailout" posts are also "incessant nattering"? You don't have a need to "build a good model" there, I notice. Or on Health care? Or on multiple other govt things.

over and over for the past 2 years speeches and/or other non-related things have been used as some indication -- and proof -- of fitness and qualification for vitally important jobs -- that's not good enough, nor is it helpful in achieving progress.

Submitted by lambert on

I have no more time to waste on this crap. Elevate your game.

UPDATE In fact, in your comments on health care and especially the bailout, you're just making stuff up. I don't know how else to put it.

Submitted by lambert on

Free translation in this context: Anything to win (as, for example, the OFB recycling Vince Foster against Hillary -- or amberglow's comment on bailout above). I used to be that way, until I realized the opportunity cost of unlimited engagement are too great. Now, when I see the purely tactical and instrumental overwhelm everything else, I call bullshit and withdraw).

Damon's picture
Submitted by Damon on

Really, Amberglow and myself simply said that Panetta's skill suit would be a better fit somewhere else in the administration. Your reaction was not warranted, especially the pissy "you pick some better" response. This was hardly a knee-jerk reaction simply because Obama picked him. We haven't change. You have, obviously with your comprimising talk of "realism" and arguments that verge on wanting to use "pragamatic" and "practical".

Submitted by lambert on

YMMV. And, obviously, does.

Arguments that shift make me testy, too. Upthread, you wrote:

Quite frankly, I don't care what Panetta has to say about his job; he's hardly the right choice for the job. This is probably the most egregious of Obama's picks. He seems to have a knack for misidentifying strengths, talents, and experience and thus placing people into offices in which they don't belong, if you ask me. It kind of reminds me how Obama got his job. He can come across as a nice enough guy, though, barely suited to the task. I'm sure Mother Teresa was against torture, too. It doesn't mean I want to see her as head of the CIA.

Now, by the time I've dealt with the rest of the nonsense, DiFi, and the rest of it, you've turned that into:

Amberglow and myself simply said that Panetta's skill suit would be a better fit somewhere else in the administration.

Your translation English-to-English skills must be a lot better than mine, I must say.

Nice work with "verging on," though. All I said is that Panetta was better than many possible alternatives, for reasons stated. In that context, it seems entirely reasonable to challenge for a better alternative. What do I get? "This Einhorn guy."* Case closed. Any stick to beat a dog, as I said. Obama can't do anything right, ever, with you guys, and so when the time comes to call him out when he does really, really wrong -- as he just did, with the Surgeon General, which I just called him on -- you've got no credibility. Nor does the blog. Wrong tactically; wrong in principle. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

NOTE * And, to be fair, Tony Lake. Failed once, in a nomination for the same post, so highly unlikely.

Submitted by lambert on

and right out front, so I can call bullshit later if he drops from the standard.

And if comparing Panetta favorably to Brennan -- or any other out-and-out torturer -- is "easy to please," then so be it. I guess I'll just have to live with the shame (snark). As I keep saying, things might have been a good deal worse -- as they were with Brennan, until the outcry. Obama's a politician like any other -- and when he makes a better choice than he could have made, I'm going to say so. If you want a blog where Obama can't ever do anything right, ever-- there are others out there.

ElizabethF's picture
Submitted by ElizabethF on

balancing the budget during Bill Clinton's administration. I always thought he organized the Clinton staff as Chief of Staff.

When living in CA, I campaigned hard for Panetta in in '76 run for congress. I thought of him as a very respectable liberal although I found out later that he was a centrist. I was a young college student then....didn't even know what a centrist was.

In re to Feinstein, I also interviewed her for the college newspaper. She was a role model for young women being so visible as the first female elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. However, she stated that she had gone as far as possible as a woman in politics. Then Milk and Moscone were assassinated and being President of the Board, she officially became Mayor of San Francisco.

Then to now.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

and people getting more conservative.

or maybe it's just decades of hobnobbing with the rich and connected? she dropped all her ideals to become a permanent DC fixture? (which is what we're seeing Obama do -- if he actually had them to begin with, that is. Maybe she didn't either?)

Submitted by lambert on

The gang of eight was a corrupt process and anti-Constitutional process whereby IMNSHO all the top Congressional Dems got themselves thoroughly implicated in Bush's crimes, which is why they're so reluctant to investigate them.

That's one reason why Panetta is 2% less evil, and it's also a reason why DiFi and Jello Jay have "concerns" about him.

The issue has nothing to do with DiFi's age at all. Can we elevate our game here, instead of resorting to age-ism?

No, there's no actual outcome from any of this yet. My only claim, throughout, has been that Panetta was better than any serious proposed alternative -- including "that Einhorn guy" that nobody'd ever heard of until this very moment.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Typical clear statement:

An aide to current Chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, tells NBC News that while the senator has tremendous respect for Leon Panetta, the aide said he believes the CIA director should go to someone who has significant intelligence experience and someone from outside the political world of Washington D.C.

Who does he want, someone from Mossad?

Davidson's picture
Submitted by Davidson on

First, it is truly surprising to know that Obama picked someone who's unequivocally against torture in addition to actually being competent in running a bureaucracy. Seriously. Here's the case for Panetta by Tim Roemer. He addresses the criticism that Panetta doesn't have the adequate intelligence background to run the agency:

I think that underestimates his chief of staff experience, when you're dealing with the CIA and the national security administration on a daily basis. He has about three years of experience dealing with the heads of agencies, with crises, and with national and foreign policy issues. I think he does bring a knowledge of the CIA and good national security experience from both his time on the Hill and the Iraq study group...and as chief of staff to the president where you're immersed in it on an hourly basis. Leon is going to be dealing with sensitive issues, like Guantanamo, and renditions and torture, and [there needs to be] a good working relationship with Capitol Hill, and he has that.

I wonder though: what about the privatization of our intelligence? Torture and other abuses of power must be stopped, but to do so and address other national security concerns I feel we must also put an end to this huge corrupting influence that has already proven disastrous during the Bush years:

As the United States finds itself in the midst of the most radical privatization agenda in its history, few areas have seen as dramatic a transformation to privatized services as the world of intelligence. "This is the magnet now. Everything is being attracted to these private companies in terms of individuals and expertise and functions that were normally done by the intelligence community," says former CIA division chief and senior analyst Melvin Goodman. "My major concern is the lack of accountability, the lack of responsibility. The entire industry is essentially out of control. It's outrageous."

From the Times op-ed:

The orthodoxy of privatization — that it’s the government that’s mired by inefficiency and a lack of competition — has been turned on its head in the intelligence industry. However patriotic, contractors must ultimately answer to their shareholders and the bottom line. There’s more than one way to read Lockheed Martin’s recent advertising slogan: “We never forget who we’re working for.”

I'm curious if there's even a hint that CIA reform is possible under Panetta. I'm guessing, "No," but still I wonder if he'll be asked about it.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

what about multi-year contracts that they've already made? I can't imagine they haven't locked in that kind of thing -- and it's probably all classified too.

and what about oversight for all of that?

Panetta never pushed back even once to my knowledge while working for Clinton -- and he was never on the House Intel Committee either.

i'd rather see a Waxman-type, if we're only getting an administrator.

Davidson's picture
Submitted by Davidson on

Considering that he's already staked a rather unapologetic stance on torture, I don't see why he wouldn't be opposed to rolling back the outsourcing of intelligence, a hotbed of abuse and criminality. But considering that corporations already have our very democracy in a headlock, I don't see how Panetta or just about anyone else could do it on their own (That's what I meant when I said that I don't see reform on this issue under Panetta). Unless they had a president and political establishment ready to back them against the corporate right-wing and its Village. And I don't see that.

Submitted by lambert on

Davidson, you write:

a president and political establishment ready to back them against the corporate right-wing and its Village.

The President and the political establishment are the Village, along wth the corporate right wing and the creatures of the press. All in all, a few thousand people at the top of the greasy pole.

Like everything else, there are gradations, and I suppose I'd rather have a well-regarded Village elder running the CIA than the Village's batshit insane junk yard owner (for example)... But it's still the village.

Davidson's picture
Submitted by Davidson on

I didn't say the political establishment. With regards to significant, systemic reform, I was thinking about what it took to roll back the gilded age and the powers that be: FDR leading the charge with an independent power base and some political leaders (allies) right behind him. That's what I meant by "a president and political establishment." Perhaps I should have used a different phrase.

As for Panetta, I don't know what to think of him. Good manager? Sure. Able to tackle much-needed CIA reform or provide strong intelligence leadership? I have no idea. Sen. Feingold's approval of him is good, but I'm still feeling unconvinced either way. Probably because I'm still confused about Obama. First, his FISA vote and now Panetta? Seems like zig then zag with him.