Outsider status of Obama's nominee for CIA chief may help agency

Posted By: Staff
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Washington, Jan 10 (ANI): President elect Barack Obama's pick for CIA chief, Leon Panetta, does not belong to the intelligence community, but is a professional manager, just what the CIA might need.

Obama's nominee for CIA director has faced skepticism from some senators and intelligence insiders, but he is not the first to come to Langley with a resume in politics, FOX News reported.

George H.W. Bush faced similar criticism when President Gerald Ford tapped him to lead the embattled agency in 1975.

Bush, a former congressman and chairman of the Republican National Committee, came to the CIA at a time when it was under pressure from congressional committees looking into covert activities.

But Bush was seen as an effective manager who lifted CIA morale. By the time he ran for president in 1980, some in the intelligence community were even volunteering in his campaign.

"For an outsider, Bush did very, very well," said Mark Lowenthal, a former CIA official who now teaches at Columbia University. "There's no hard and fast rule here."

Panetta, a former congressman who served as President Bill Clinton's chief of staff and also ran the White House budget office, could follow in Bush's footsteps. He could serve as a bridge between the secretive organization and the rest of Washington.

Lowenthal said Panetta's first challenge will be to win the trust of his staff.

"It is a profession. It has arcane language. It has things that you have to know, so it has a learning curve time. The CIA tends to treat outsiders ... like germs. Until they're confident in you, they're guarded," he added.

John Deutch, who served as CIA director in the Clinton administration, said professionals in the agency should be happy with Panetta since he would have the ear of the president-elect as well as others in foreign policy.

Obama on Friday defended Panetta as a critical link between the CIA and the Oval Office.

"Let me be clear. In Leon Panetta, the agency will have a director who has my complete trust and substantial clout. He will be a strong manager and a strong advocate for the CIA," Obama said. (ANI)

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