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Former Clinton chief of staff is a Washington insider and an intelligence outsider.

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Chief Spy Leon Panetta?

Former Clinton chief of staff is a Washington insider and an intelligence outsider.

When word began to leak that President-elect Obama was tapping former Clinton White House chief of staff Leon Panetta as his CIA Director, even some of the wackiest lefties (see e.g., democraticundergound.com) who voted for Obama thought aloud: “Weird choice. Has he served on an intelligence committee or had any intelligence experience? You’d think that would be a major requirement.”
 
Some elected Democrats, such as incoming Senate Select Committee on Intelligence chairperson Diane Feinstein (D-Ca), were dumbfounded by the choice as well. When asked on Monday, January 5, about Panetta’s pending nomination she released the following statement: “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…[but] my position has consistently been that I believe the Agency is best-served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time.”

Credit to Feinstein and a small handful of leftist-blogging “FM types” for thinking on this one. It does make sense that the CIA would be “best-served by having an intelligence professional” as director. But Obama apparently is not concerned with what would be good for the CIA, and that’s something the majority of Leftists, elected or not, understand.
As one Obama lover on democraticunderground.com put it: “[Choosing Panetta is] probably Obama’s best strategy for an extremely touchy appointment. After all, [Obama] can’t exactly say he’s going to splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the wind, now can he?” In other words, the hardcore, fringe Left is confident that Obama shares their hatred for the CIA thus, while not particularly excited about the Panetta nomination, they see it as a politically expedient way to render the CIA impotent.

If you think this analysis is wrong, then just ask yourself: “What experience does Panetta have in the intelligence world?” Honestly, what qualifies him to be the head of an agency that has 20,000-plus agents spread around the world, with operational control of our intelligence operations and multi-billion dollar assets?

The answer is simple: nothing at all.

Panetta was Clinton’s chief of staff “from July 1994 to January 1997,” he was a congressman for 16 years prior to that, and now works as a public policy analyst at his own “think tank,” the Panetta Institute for Public Policy.  Prior to his years in congress the positions he held were focused on public relations. For example, “In 1970, he went to New York City, where he served as executive assistant to Mayor John Lindsay, overseeing the city’s relations with the state and federal governments.”

Obama has basically given the nod to a PR hack to head the CIA. (That actually makes sense in a twisted kind of way when you keep in mind that Obama is just about as qualified for president as Panetta is to be DCIA.)

But there’s more, Panetta also shares in the Left’s (and Obama’s) disdain for the U.S. in general and our military in particular. The “progressive” website commondreams.org has an article from 2001 which details a trip Panetta took to Columbia in coordination with “Colombia’s Peace Informers’ Network” in order to highlight “human-rights abuses associated with the U.S. military’s training of Latin American soldiers.”

On that same trip Panetta, ever the proud American, concluded “the U.S. [had] a hidden agenda in the war on drugs,” which was “getting and keeping control of Colombia’s resources: gold, silver, copper. Colombia may have the largest oil reserve in the Americas. The U.S. wants to control it."

Has anyone read Panetta’s criticism of Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro? While Panetta’s criticism of the U.S. over things he’s dreamed up is ubiquitous, he seems to hold back a bit when it comes to criticizing men who are truly guilty of human rights violations and of taking over oil and food supplies.

We cannot overlook the fact that Panetta also shares the Left’s (and Obama’s) environment first, people second worldview. In the article on commondreams.org, Panetta lamented the fact that the U.S. tax dollars were funding “Colombia’s [use of] military…helicopters and airplanes to spray rainforests with glyphosate, a chemical manufactured by Monsanto." The U.S./Columbian agents claim to be “killing coca plants, but they spray indiscriminately. In La Hormiga, a small city in the Amazon Territory, the spraying killed medicinal plants and food crops such as yucca. Yet, the adjacent coca fields flourished. Glyphosate seeps into the soil and water. Fish die in contaminated rivers," he added.

Only Al Gore or Rachel Carson could have put it better.

Perhaps this will come together with clarity when we consider one last thing: Panetta is on the record saying, “[The U.S.] cannot and…must not use torture under any circumstances.”

Justifying his opposition to torture in the Washington Monthly on August 1, 2008, Panetta said: “[Our Founders believed this] nation would recognize that every individual has an inherent right to personal dignity, to justice, to freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.” With a straight face Panetta claims our Founders would have opposed “water-boarding” even “if availing ourselves of it [could] stop the next terrorist attack, the next suicide bomber.”

Notice that Panetta does not deny that water-boarding works; he is simply too squeamish or too far Left (or both) to condone harsh interrogation techniques of terrorists even if such techniques “stop the next terrorist attack.”

Panetta wants to make it “clear that there are certain lines Americans will not cross because we respect the dignity of every human being,” but it seems that in asserting this idealism he is willing to overlook the dignity of every American life the terrorists will violently steal as we sit on our hands or practice surrendering like the French.

Not surprisingly, Panetta praised President Bush for removing Donald Rumsfeld from his post as Secretary of Defense following the 2006 elections.

So the choice of Panetta is weird: and in our hearts we know he’s the wrong “man” for the job.  Even some of the hyper-libs understand we could be in serious trouble as far as the gathering of crucial, reliable intelligence goes.  But what else could we have expected from Obama? The UK’s Sky News was keen enough to weigh Panetta’s pending appointment in light of the fact that “Mr Obama had vowed to ‘put a clear end to torture’ and ‘restore’ a balance between security and constitutional protections.”

It’s 2009 and our soon-to-be CIA Director doesn’t know a thing about intelligence work, but his resume does reflect a sterling record of environmental activism, anti-American military sentiment, and the courage of a Frenchman.

It’s going to be a bumpy — and dangerous — ride.

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Written By

AWR Hawkins writes for Andrew Breitbart's BIG sites, for Pajamas Media, for RedCounty.com, and for Townhall.com. He was a Visiting Fellow at the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal (summer 2010), and holds a PhD in military history from Texas Tech University. You can e-mail him at awr@awrhawkins.com.

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