PANETTA FOR CIA CHIEF: The Right Man for Troubled Intel Times
• Point of fact: Congresswoman Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the House Intelligence Committee and skeptical about Panetta's selection, is the wife of a defense contractor.
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There is a good reason that Barack Obama has selected Leon Panetta, White House chief of staff under President Clinton and a former congressman, as his nominee for Central Intelligence Agency director.
The President-elect is well aware that the CIA and other secretive civilian and military intel agencies have become a refuge for ideologues who are alleged to be executing "social engineering" operations under the cover of statecraft...
...doing great harm to civil liberties and to the economic and physical well-being of thousands of unjustly "targeted" Americans.
After months of this writer's reports at NowPublic.com about the use of silent, potentially deadly radiation devices and weapons to harass and torture American citizen "targets," the U.S. Justice Department has acknowledged that hand-held microwave and laser weaponry is headed to police departments across America.
But victims of radiation weapons torture, including this writer, maintain that such devices already are in use by military, security and intelligence operatives on the federal and local levels -- and that the use of these weapons has degraded American lives; caused physical and psychological harm; and threatens the safety of security personnel themselves, who may be getting "dosed" along with their targets -- or who may become victims as criminals get ahold of radiation weaponry.
The widescale deployment of radiation weapons among the American military-security-law enforcement complex is a symptom of an underlying danger -- a brazen bypass the judicial system, and constitutional guarantees of due process, by way of extrajudicial targeting and punishment.
Obama must excise this cancer by putting an immediate halt to extrajudicial targeting, punishment, and the warrentless surveillance and search and seizure policies that facilitate the operations of "The American Gestapo" -- a network of authoritarians on the federal and local levels who have turned our democratic republic into a police state.
And Congress must outlaw radiation weapons use among civilian populations.
The only way that Obama can hope to lasso in the military-security-intel posse is to put his own chosen sheriff inside their corral. Penetta understands the vagaries of the intel "community" because he was a president's chief consumer of their product on a daily basis. He received and evaluated daily situation reports from a variety of intelligence agencies, providing him insight into the relative quality -- and deficiencies -- of their raw "incoming" intel.
And the former California congressman was a key member of the Iraq Study Group, the panel that scolded the intel community for its insistence that Sadaam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction -- the Bush-Cheney rationale for the invasion and occupation of Iraq -- when later it was learned that in fact the spy agency could supply no proof to back up the assertion.
Lesser-known items on Panetta's resume also bolster his administrative bona fides. Before moving inside the Clinton White House, he served as director of the Office of Management and Budget, overseeing federal spending across the vast bureaucracy. He deserves much of the credit for balancing the federal budget over the course of the Clinton presidency -- arguably, Clinton's most significant achievement, especially viewed in light of what's happened to the economy in the years since.
Panetta also has earned his chops as a civil liberties advocate -- an area in which the CIA could use some remedial work. He served as the director of the U.S. Office for Civil Rights in the old Department of Health, Education and Welfare. And as a congressman, he was the author of the Fair Employment Practices Regulation, which, for the first time, extended civil rights protections to employees of the House of Representatives.
And, it should be noted, Panetta is a military veteran, having served during the Vietnam era as an Army first lieutenant.
Panetta is not an intel "lifer" -- but given the history of the past eight years, that fact may rank as one of his top qualifications for the job. More than anything, the CIA needs a pair of clear, fresh eyes to oversee the secretive operations emanating from Langley -- a vision unfiltered by the insular, self-protective lens of a career "spook" like the current CIA director, Michael Hayden (who formerly held a top job at America's least-known and arguably most unaccountable spy nest, the National Security Agency).
There's no doubt the Panetta selection displeases many intel operatives; he's an outsider, not one of "them." And the fact that Obama went to the outside may not earn the incoming president much political ammunition among the nation's spy army.
But the pick does send a message -- putting Langley on notice that it's got to clean up its act and conform its operations to meet the requirements of the U.S. Constitution, federal law, and international human rights treaties and conventions. The use and advocacy of methods and tactics such as "renditioning," "enhanced interrogation techniques" and tortuous, radiation-based weapons and "surveillance" gear is coming under some skeptical scrutiny -- arguably, to the benefit of the final intel product as well as to the nation's international reputation and standing.
Those who demand an intel insider at Langley appear to have an ally in California congresswoman Diane Feinstein, incoming chairman of the House intelligence committee, who openly bristled at the Penetta pick; Obama apparently did not consult her before making his choice. That could prove to be a costly mistake, should Feinstein put it all on the line in an effort to block the appointment. Perhaps Obama had his reasons for not doing a personal sell job before making the call. The word surely would have been leaked; and the likely back channel uproar could have scuttled the nomination even before it happened.
But Obama is nothing if but a consummate salesman. The rationale for the Panetta CIA pick is compelling; the betting here is that he'll somehow win over even Chairman Feinstein, once the reminder goes out that she's the wife of a wealthy and influential defense contractor.
It wouldn't take much publicity about her personal ties to the defense and intel communities for Obama's already aggrieved base to call for Feinstein to recuse herself from the nomination hearings.
And then there's Obama's pick of former Navy admiral and CIA military liaison director Dennis Blair as director of national intelligence, a security forces "lifer" who neatly balances out the Panetta nomination -- a Solomon-like intel strategy for a rookie who plays his cards like a skilled old hand.
For the full story on domestic torture via radiation weaponry and the threat to democracy, see:
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