Thursday, January 08, 2009

 

David Ignatius on the CIA

Yesterday’s Washington Post had a column by David Ignatius: A Surprise Pick for CIA Chief

“Obama doesn't have any background in intelligence, but insiders say that since the election, he has been immersing himself in the murky world of secret operations with his characteristic lawyerly diligence. He made a surprising decision in picking Panetta, but on balance, a good one.”

My first reaction was that perhaps Mr. Ignatius was going Chris Matthews on us and just doing his part to support the new Obama Administration. But the CIA is one of his favorite subjects (he’s even written spy novels) and so, prodded on by the ever-astute Soccer Dad, I did some additional research to learn if Mr. Ignatius is right.

David Ignatius then:

“When the next president thinks about fixing the CIA, he or she ought to consider the radical thought that it's time to blow up the CIA and start over.” What's Wrong at the CIA

David Ignatius now:

"Leon is not going to preside over the demise of the CIA," explains one member of the Obama transition team. "The CIA needs to have someone who can represent them well."

“This argument for Panetta makes sense.”


Mr. Panetta was a 9-term California congressman but, like our new President, has no intelligence background. One of the more recent CIA Directors was also an ex-congressman. That would be the widely-dismissed Porter Goss...who did have an intelligence background.

David Ignatius then:

“Goss got off to a shaky start because he was seen as a man on a political mission.” The CIA at Rock Bottom

David Ignatius now:

“But the reality is that the professionals now lack the political muscle to fend off the agency's critics and second-guessers. That's the heart of the problem: The agency needs to rebuild political support before it can be depoliticized”

For the most part, the President deserves to have his people where he wants them and Mr. Panetta may yet prove to be a brilliant pick but methinks a similar pick by John McCain would have been roundly blasted for the same reasons Obama's pick is praised here.

Side Note: “Obama …has been immersing himself in the murky world of secret operations with his characteristic lawyerly diligence.”

I’m sure he meant it as a compliment but when most of us get to witness someone’s “characteristic lawyerly diligence”, it usually because we’re going to end up paying for it.

Comments:
You wrote:
For the most part, the President deserves to have his people where he wants them and Mr. Panetta may yet prove to be a brilliant pick but methinks a similar pick by John McCain would have been roundly blasted for the same reasons Obama's pick is praised here.

Exactly.

Look at the Post's editorials over the past two days. They've had praise for President elect Obama on the economy (two) and criticism for President Bush on detainees.

They seem to be averting their eyes. The NYT doesn't have any editorials on the topic either.

Tenet IIRC was a congressional staffer, though not a congressman.
 
Thanks SD - I predict that either the Post or the NYT will reflexively editorialize a criticism of Bush and Gitmo in the coming months just out of habit.
 
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