CIA director says Congress should let go of CIA’s past actions

Leon Panetta

Leon Panetta

CIA director Leon Panetta has criticized Congress for its “focus on the past” that “threatens to distract the CIA from its crucial core missions”. In an editorial published last weekend in The Washington Post, Panetta says he is becoming “increasingly concerned” that “wrong judgments” made by the Bush Administration after 9/11 have damaged the broad agreement between the executive and legislative branches of the US government about the CIA’s role and activities. But the CIA director says the “sincerity or the patriotism” of Bush Administration officials should not be questioned, as they “were trying to respond as best they could” in the aftermath of 9/11. Instead, Panetta argues for learning “lessons from the past without getting stuck there”, and warns that “classified information that shapes […] conversations” between the CIA and Congress must be protected. He does, however, provide a slight hint that critics of the CIA’s post-9/11 activities, including torture and extraordinary rendition, should not pursue the CIA, but rather members of the executive who designed these policies: “the CIA implements presidential decisions; we do not make them”, he says. Reacting to Panetta’s editorial, former CIA veteran and longtime CIA critic Melvin Goodman described the “ideological partnership” between The Washington Post and the CIA as “despicable”. Writing for The Public Record, Goodman said Panetta’s op-ed was the latest in a series of recent articles in the paper that were “designed to prevent the release of the Justice Department memoranda that permitted the use of CIA torture and abuse”. He also compares Panetta’s stance with that of a former CIA director, Richard Helms, who claimed that CIA officials and operatives “are all honorable men”, when testifying about the CIA’s role in overthrowing the elected Chilean government of Salvador Allende, in 1973.

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

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