Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Responses to CIA Director Announcement

By Ben Trott

Robert Dreyfuss, a contributing editor at the Nation who runs the blog 'The Dreyfuss Report', has a piece on the appointment of Panetta as CIA Director.

Panetta wins no points from Dreyfuss for his opposition to torture - he paraphrases Dick Cheney's comments on waterboarding saying this should be 'a no-brainer'. He argues,
'Panetta is a relentless centrist and a conciliator. He's one more cog in the center-right national security apparatus that Obama is patiently assembling. Which raises another very important issue: Is Panetta the one to stand up and fight for civilian control of the intelligence community? Of course not. His boss, it appears, will he Admiral Dennis Blair, yet another top military man appointed to run the U.S. intelligence community as head of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Now the very office of the DNI is a useless post, and the entire office ought to be abolished by Obama on Day One. Who needs it? It was created by Congress, with President Bush's support, as part of the helter-skelter intelligence reorganization that also saw the creation of several other vast, unneeded agencies: the Northern Command, the Department of Homeland Security, and National Counterterrorism Center, and others. Obama should get rid of all of them. In the meantime, by appointing Blair, a man deeply entangled in the military-industrial complex, Obama is guaranteeing that the CIA and the other fifteen or so agencies that comprise the "community" will be ever beholden to the Pentagon, which already absorbs something like 80 percent of the intelligence budget.

'The Panetta appointment is doomed. I give him a year, before he gives up over there. He's no match for the hardheaded spooks who run the place, and he's no match for the military brass who are elbowing their way to more and more control of intelligence spending and priorities.'
David Corn, on the 'MoJo' blog at Mother Jones, is more enthusiastic. Drum celebrates Panetta's opposition to torture (including waterboarding), his criticism of the Iraq war through his involvement in the Iraq Study Group, his attempt to cut intelligence funding to the CIA as Clinton's budget chief, and his voting in favour of more congressional oversight of covert operations in 1990. He concludes,
'This appointment certainly has the potential to spark opposition from inside and outside the agency. But if Panetta manages to make it to Langley without much fuss, that would indeed signal real change in Washington.'
According to many accounts (Politico, New York Times, Guardian, Washington Post) Democrats are similarly split in their response to the announcement.

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