Posted by: Randy Allgaier | January 8, 2009

No Torture Panetta- the choice of No Drama Obama

The appointment of Leon Panetta the former Presidential Chief of Staff, the former OMB Director, and the former chair of the House Budget Committee as CIA Director has raised some eyebrows – Senators Feinstein and Rockefeller for two-  some members of the media as well.


Although Mrs. Feinstein says that she now plans to support Mr. Panetta’s nomination she was quite miffed that she hadn’t been called by the Obama Biden Transition folks.  Mrs. Feinstein had said she wanted someone with intelligence experience.   Would that be like Porter Goss?  During Mr. Goss’s confirmation hearings Mrs. Feinstein said that the President should get whomever he wants for the post.  What gives?  Is it just senatorial ego? 


Mr. Panetta will bring an outsider’s perspective and a keen set of skills and knowledge of the way federal agencies work. As a congressman from California for 16 years, Mr. Panetta immersed himself in details of the federal budget.  As President Clinton’s Chief of Staff Mr. Panetta broadened his portfolio and became involved in intelligence matters.


Mr. Panetta represents a track record of the highest ethics, strong American values regarding torture- rendition-and the sovereignty of foreign governments, clear commitment to the safety of this country, personal knowledge of how Congress works, and strong management skills to coordinate a delicate relationship between all branches of government.   It’s better to have someone who is not an insider – who does not owe favors and is not indoctrinated by military or security hard core types.


President-elect Obama promised a change in policies of torture, rendition, warrant-less wiretaps and other violations of our Constitution that Bush/Cheney made in the name of security.   With Mr. Panetta’s appointment he is clearly following through on his promise.


A year ago, Mr. Panetta wrote in the Washington Monthly, “Those who support torture may believe that we can abuse captives in certain select circumstances and still be true to our values, but that is a false compromise. We either believe in the dignity of the individual, the rule of law, and the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, or we don’t. There is no middle ground. We cannot and we must not use torture under any circumstances. We are better than that.”


The press has been bloviating about the Panetta appointment saing that it was a misstep for Obama and salivating over the thought that the transition might not be perfect.  MSNBC’s Chris Matthew has referred to the CIA Director as the “Top Spook”.  Well in this case a spook is probably not be who you want to see in the position.  The upper echelons of the CIA are tainted with the support of some of the most atrocious unconstitutional and immoral actions our national has ever committed.  Maybe they wouldn’t be such a great choice.  Many of these pundits who have questioned Mr. Panetta’s credentials seem rather shocked when they have on guests who know more about these issues they do and the guests think the appointment is brilliant.  They desperately want some drama!


And what about Senators Feinstein and Rockefeller?  Weren’t they complicit with the Bush Cheney policies of torture, rendition, and warrant-less wiretaps?  I don’t know how much credibility they have about anything right now.  Congressional oversight in committees like the Intelligence Committee has been sorely lacking and the Senators and House members on those committees have abrogated their responsibilities.  Why should the President-elect have consulted with these two Senators complicit with the Bush / Cheney illegal actions?  He might as well have consulted with George Tenet, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. 


Maybe Mrs. Feinstein’s nose was put out of joint, but she and her colleagues on the Intelligence Committee had better do some real soul searching.  Their hands are dirty. 


This post is also available by the author at where there are a lot of other great pieces by other great progressive writers!


  1. You might be able to win me over on this one, I guess.

    I would still like to see someone with some measure of experience in intelligence or the military, or at least State Department.

    You make a good case, though.

    Certainly, the CIA has its hands dirty from what it’s done the past years. Probably, no CIA leader should be moved up with that record right now.

    I might have liked an Army person, perhaps one of those involved in making the anti-torture argument, since the Army was opposed to the practice. Army Intelligence would be good enough for me.

    Ah, well … We shall see. I’m skeptical, but that doesn’t mean that I’m right.

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