CIA officer behind “Syriana” comes out in favor of Panetta

Robert Baer

Robert Baer

Robert Baer, the former CIA field officer whose memoir, See No Evil, formed the basis of the 2005 motion picture Syriana, has publicly endorsed Leon Panetta, US President Elect Barack Obama’s nominee to head the CIA. In an article published on Friday in The New Republic, Baer describes Panetta as an experienced political operator who “knows his way around the Oval Office” and will thus have “the stature to stroll into the [White House] and tell the president, ‘no'”. More importantly, Baer seconds this author’s assessment, expressed here on January 6, that Panetta’s nomination by the incoming US President is part of a broader effort to “demilitarize[e] the CIA [by] reaffirming the Agency’s operational independence from the Pentagon”. Baer notes that “[t]he Pentagon is [currently] firmly on top of the intelligence heap” by controlling “80 percent of the intelligence budget” while trying to “take the rest”. Baer further notes, as I indicated on January 8, that “Panetta will be faced with an armature of wariness, mistrust, and anxiety as soon as he walks through the [CIA’s] front door”.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

2 Responses to CIA officer behind “Syriana” comes out in favor of Panetta

  1. Anonymous says:

    Dear Sir

    One of the most heard mantras is that the new CIA nominee is a complete “stranger” to intelligence matters and communities.
    Panetta was with the 104th Military Intelligence Detachment, at Ford Ord, working at classified analysis of troop strengths and risks in the very early Vietnam war battlefield (1964).
    His Institute was for many times the centre of think tank seminars on defense, intelligence and security, and he acted as coordinator, planner and facilitator.
    As director of the OMB, he dealt with the classified intelligence community (not only CIA) budget.
    As White house Chief of Staff, he was part of daily briefings and debriefings on national intelligence.
    As member of the Iraqi Study Group, he had ample opportunity to refresh notions and become current again on defense, security and military intelligence matters.
    He is, of course, an outsider, but not a stranger to the US operational intelligence community.
    Strange as it may seem to some, his nomination is a truly independent decision from Obama, not falling into the trap of favouring “operationals” or “analysts”, military or civilian “insiders”, diplomats or professional agents, lobbyists or hardware salesmen, “rightists” or “leftists”, etc.
    Will he be successful? That’s another question, and it will not depend on him alone.

    Nuno Rogeiro
    Lisbon, Portugal

  2. analyst says:

    I am not particualy happy about this nomiee myself. On the one side he is a good manager, will help with the budget and manging.

    However this a wartime setting I would have peferred some one who could get into the nuts and bolts of intel.

    I also believe that agency to agency copperation is critical.

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