Panetta uses Senate hearing to send message to CIA

Leon Panetta

Leon Panetta

Reassuring CIA’s rank-and-file that he does not represent a coup d’état from the “left flank” of the Democratic Party appeared to be at the top of Leon Panetta’s agenda in yesterday’s Senate hearing. Barack Obama’s nominee for the post of CIA Director emphasized that he does not intend to replace officials currently at senior positions in the Agency, including Deputy Director Stephen Kappes, who was favored by CIA hawks to lead the Agency. He also confirmed earlier rumors, reported by intelNews on January 15, that the Obama Administration has no intention to punish CIA officers involved in torturing terrorism detainees. In relaying the Administration’s decision to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Mr. Panetta said that CIA officers “ought not to be prosecuted or investigated if they acted pursuant to the law as presented by the attorney general” at the time (emphasis added). The former Presidential aide under Bill Clinton also pledged to heal the rift between the Congressional oversight committees and the CIA, and accused the Bush Administration of abusing oversight conventions. “Too often critical issues were kept from this committee”, he said, referring to the Bush Presidency. He added that “[k]eeping this committee fully and currently informed is not optional. It is the law”. To questions about his stance on extraordinary rendition, Mr. Panetta responded by stating that the Obama Administration would approve only what he called “appropriate use of rendition”. He failed to define “appropriate use”, though he did note that cases of “prisoner[s] transferred to another government for prosecution in its judicial system or for secret interrogations that may cross the line into torture” would not meet the new Administration’s approval standards. Interestingly, the Senate panel failed to probe Mr. Panetta about his position on extraordinary rendition during his earlier tenure in the Clinton White House, which resorted over 80 times to the controversial practice. Two weeks ago, Republican lawmakers let it be known that they would question Leon Panetta’s knowledge of extraordinary rendition authorizations by the Clinton Administration. But yesterday’s hearing was described by insiders as “subdued”, prompting the Associated Press to forecast that Mr. Panetta “is not expected to face major opposition in the Senate”.

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

We welcome informed comments and corrections. Comments attacking or deriding the author(s), instead of addressing the content of articles, will NOT be approved for publication.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: