CIA Director Leon Panetta’s emergency testimony to Congress about an illegal assassination program has set off a crisis at the spy agency. The Daily Beast’s Joseph Finder exclusively reports that:
• The secret assassination “program” wasn’t much more than a PowerPoint presentation, a task force and a collection of schemes—it never got off the ground.
• Panetta’s three immediate predecessors—George Tenet, Porter Goss, and Michael Hayden—have spoken to him, and that he now sees that no laws were broken.
• Panetta has frantically tried to rectify his gaffe, but now faces increased Congressional oversight.
For those not previously convinced of Panetta’s ineptitude, this story will completely undermine faith in the director of the CIA. And this is sad news.
Panetta came to the post after many years in government service, most notably as a long-time member of Congress and then as chief of staff for President Bill Clinton. But his tenure in government as a politician, and as the most senior aide to a very political president, indicated that he would carry his partisan ways to his current posting. It should also go without saying that Panetta’s lack of experience in the intelligence sector was deeply worrisome.
The sad irony is that the Obama administration needs strong intelligence agencies. Obama has cut defense spending and generally seems wary of the armed services. This leaves a wide gap, so to speak, for heavy reliance on wide-reaching, covert intelligence agencies.
Obama’s ill-chosen reliance on Leon Panetta speaks volumes about the slipshod way in which vital national-security issues are handled in this administration.