By Phil Trounstine
(Originally posted on Huffington Post, Jan. 6, 2009)
Leon Panetta is not only an experienced, level-headed Washington hand and a decent human being, but he’s eminently qualified to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Sorry, Sen. Feinstein, that the news leaked out before you could be briefed or suggest your own candidate for the job. But having frozen Panetta out of the California governor’s race in 1998 by not deciding whether to run until he had no chance of lining up financial backing, now would be a good time to stand aside and let him rise to the occasion.
Besides, a number of CIA directors, including George H.W. Bush, were not “intelligence experts” when named to head the agency. Like them, Panetta will surround himself with professional spooks but he’ll be the civilian in charge of setting policy and operating rules.
Let’s celebrate the idea that the new director of the CIA will be someone who is unequivocally opposed to torture and who understands — as a former Chief of Staff — that the president needs to hear unfiltered, honest intelligence reports.
Let’s be glad that president-elect Barack Obama has selected someone who will not be cowed by the testosterone-poisoned atmosphere of the “intelligence community.”
And let’s savor the fact that Panetta is a man of integrity, intelligence and humility – a rare set of qualities in a CIA director.