President-elect Barack Obama has chosen former White House chief of staff Leon Panetta to lead the CIA, which has been widely criticized for harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects, Democratic officials said on Monday. The choice of Panetta for Central Intelligence Agency director was one of the last major nominations for the incoming Obama administration, which takes over from President George W. Bush on January 20.
I asked my original source what he thought of Panetta. He said: “A fascinating pick. He is very smart and capable, and a power center to himself in Washington. He was very effective as White House chief of staff under Clinton and understands how to operate in Washington. He will not be pushed around by Jones, Blair, or anyone else in uniform. I think he is the most powerful individual pick yet, even more than Clinton at State, because he doesn’t have negative political baggage. I suspect he will have direct access to POTUS, and throw considerable weight in discussions, all of which is good for the agency.”