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January 05, 2009

Comments

You and me both, Hilzoy. The combination of the Johnsen and Panetta appointments makes today a banner day for human rights, and a stunning repudiation of the Bush regime.

It's ironic that they should come on the same day that John Yoo's craven Op-Ed appeared in the Times.

Panetta seems like a fine choice to me. but you know it won't be universally praised.

i just can't wait (!) to see what the expected outrage will be based on.

Granted Panetta's a little light on intel experience, but he's an all-around quality individual - intelligent, pragmatic, progressive, good manager, etc.

I applaud the appointment loudly.

Early word:

Dianne Feinstein ain't happy. Spackerman:

“I was not informed about the selection of Leon Panetta to be the CIA Director. I know nothing about this, other than what I’ve read,” said Senator Feinstein, who will chair the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in the 111th Congress.

“My position has consistently been that I believe the Agency is best-served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time.”

http://washingtonindependent.com/23827/dianne-feinstein-not-too-pleased-with-panetta-pick

Someone needs to tell Feinstein that the Republicans have already filled our WATB quota for the year.

Well, let us hope that Senator Feinstein gets over her objections. It's not like we've been particularly well-served by the most recent leaders the agency has had.

"President-elect Barack Obama has selected Leon E. Panetta, the former congressman and White House chief of staff, to take over the Central Intelligence Agency...."

This is very good, but what about Dennis Blair as DNI?

DNI now outranks the mere head of the CIA, who is no longer DCI.

The Blair issue particularly frustrates me because I've seen just about no major blogger bring up the topic -- and I did send email to several, trying to draw their attention to it. I believe I emailed you about it, for one, Hilzoy. Why doesn't anyone major in the leftosphere seem to care?

As one people, standing united behind our President Elect, we can proudly proclaim,

"Today, we are ALL happy hilzoys!"

(except Dianne Feinstein...)

“I was not informed about the selection of Leon Panetta to be the CIA Director. I know nothing about this, other than what I’ve read,”

That's a bad move politically, regardless of substance. Congress has to be catered to, like it or not.

I despise Feinstein, but it's just dumb to not run your nominees through the main Congressional committee chairs before publically announcing them. Particularly CIA, given how historically volatile it is and how many nominees have been rejected by the Senate.

It seems oddly and unusually sloppy of the Obama admin.

But is this just a temporary while-Obama-is-President-we-don't-torture-people (which is, of course, good for the people who would have been tortured if Obama had not become President) or will there be a return to the rule of law rather than the whim of the sitting President: will those who approved/allowed torture under Bush be prosecuted - up to and including Bush himself?

There was an interview in the Guardian this past weekend with one of the handful of Abu Ghraib low-ranking soldiers who were prosecuted. Her life was destroyed, and I don't say she didn't merit it for her actions - but while she went to jail and is now unemployed, it still appears likely that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, will live out a wealthy and undisturbed retirement, untouched by the appalling crimes they instigated and approved.

it's just dumb to not run your nominees through the main Congressional committee chairs before publically announcing them.

And not to tell your California delegation about the Californians you're about to appoint. No idea if DiFi and Panetta have any history, but isn't that something the Obama folks should have looked into?

Strange days when I find myself in agreement with Senator Feinstein… His experience with the intelligence agencies seems to be limited to cutting their budgets as head bean counter forcing the shutdown of major intelligence collection programs – programs that may have been nice to have had during the latter 90’s… If you want to note how bad these agencies were at their primary mission prior to 9/11 and the Iraq mess I’m sure that they would lay some of that at the feet of Clinton’s OMB Director.

I also agree with Gary that not keeping the committee chairs involved is politically dumb. (Also Gary – good post on Blair. He certainly doesn’t seem like the type to put his President’s policy goals first and foremost.)

FWIW, Mark Kilmer, back in 2003, claimed this:

[...] On the Fox News Channel, Susan Estrich lamented that the Democrats did not run a credible candidate. Diane Feinstein, she maintained, was frightened out of the race by former Clinton chief of staff Leon Panetta, who told her and other Dems that whomever of them ran for governor would lose the support of organized labor forever.
True? I have no idea, though I've seen other suggestions in similar directions.

Whether there's a grudge, I don't know. Bob Schieffer on CBS Evening News just relayed talking to DiFi and how pissed she was, and he duly poopooed the wisdom of Panetta's nomination, relaying the idea that an "intelligence professional" was needed.

“I was not informed about the selection of Leon Panetta to be the CIA Director. "

Ms. Feinstein should go back and check her job description to verify if Mr Obama is, as she seems to think he is, required to inform her.

Wasn't Feinstein one of the leading Democratic supporters of the bad FISA revisions?

"His experience with the intelligence agencies seems to be limited to cutting their budgets"

I'm sure that as White House chief of staff he had a lot of experience with CIA. Enough? Impossible to say at this distance.

It's true that CIA directors without direct intelligence experience have tended to have done a lousy job. But, then, most CIA directors have done a lousy job, one way or another.

I'll say this: Panetta couldn't be worse than Porter Goss.

And as Hilzoy noted, Panetta is completely untainted by torture, rendition, etc.

Whether he'd be effective is another question.

Jes, if you'll forgive me for pointing out a very minor quibble with this statement on your journal: "Remember, no one above the rank of sergeant was charged for any abuse in Abu Ghraib"

In fact, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski was demoted to Colonel. "She was found guilty of dereliction of duty...."

But this is a very trivial point; I completely agree with your general point, and the demotion of Karpinski was scapegoating as much as that of England and the other lower ranks was. Clearly Rumsfeld and Bush and Yoo and Addington and Cheney and so on should be investigated, to say the least.

Whether that will or won't happen, I have no idea, but one thing I wouldn't expect is anything to happen while the Bush administration is still in office.

"Ms. Feinstein should go back and check her job description to verify if Mr Obama is, as she seems to think he is, required to inform her."

She's incoming chair of the Senate Intelligence committee. It's not a matter of being legally required at this point, it's a matter of incredible political stupidity if you don't run the CIA nomination through that person, and the incoming head of the House intel committee, before making it public. For reasons that are now playing out.

Yes, for any sense of how American politics work, it's required. If you don't want problems with your nomination.

Remember Carter's nomination of Ted Sorenson? Not as a direct comparison, but as an example of how a CIA nomination can be sunk by Congress. Or even John Tower's nomination as SecDef by George H. W. Bush. Or Anthony Lake's DCI nomination. I've seen that play before.

One hopes Feinstein won't be as oppositional as a member of the opposition party, and this will be smoothed over.

I'm not defending her being obnoxious about this, at all. I'm just saying that it's extremely dumb to allow it to happen by not talking to the incoming intelligence chairs first.

I'm sure that as White House chief of staff he had a lot of experience with CIA. Enough? Impossible to say at this distance.

I know the job responsibilities vary greatly by administration, but I’m not sure it would expose him to the inner workings of these agencies. I think a larger issue is that the entrenched bureaucracy is historically problematic with outsiders being handed the reins.

The decision also seems to say that the torture taint matters more than anything else. I’m OK with that, but if it’s really the case that there is no qualified individual in the organization untainted by torture then maybe it’s time to tear it down and start over. That would also resolve the entrenched bureaucracy issue.

[Lynndie England's] life was destroyed, and I don't say she didn't merit it for her actions - but while she went to jail and is now unemployed

She should talk to Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter. They should be able to set her up with some lucrative speaking and autograph-signing opportunities at conventions for Young Republicans and the like.

KCinDC: Wasn't Feinstein one of the leading Democratic supporters of the bad FISA revisions?

Wasn't that Barack Obama? Who will of course now get to make use of them, in less than 3 weeks.

But is this just a temporary while-Obama-is-President-we-don't-torture-people (which is, of course, good for the people who would have been tortured if Obama had not become President) or will there be a return to the rule of law rather than the whim of the sitting President: will those who approved/allowed torture under Bush be prosecuted - up to and including Bush himself?

You know, Jes, it would be nice if you paused to acknowledge a positive move by Obama before moving the goalposts.

KCinDC: Wasn't Feinstein one of the leading Democratic supporters of the bad FISA revisions?

Wasn't that Barack Obama? Who will of course now get to make use of them, in less than 3 weeks.

No, Jes. It also would be nice if you represented the history of that accurately. The amendments that got people particularly up in arms were ones that Obama opposed. Supporting the bill after losing on the amendments is not the same thing as being one of their leading supporters.

The news was leaked, at the Atlantic says that it was someone not connected with Obama who did the leaking, so it is just as possible that Obama was planning on informing Feinstein and the leak beat him to it. Perhaps it is a lapse, but given the tightness of the Obama camp, the odds are not that they just forgot to tell Feinstein.

I'd also suggest that the CIA head is, given the problems of Abu Grahib, a lot more problematic in terms of trying to set a tone. Plus, Panatta's emininence gris-ness might have led to a looser lid on the news than it would have with a less senior person.

"The news was leaked, at the Atlantic says that it was someone not connected with Obama who did the leaking, so it is just as possible that Obama was planning on informing Feinstein and the leak beat him to it."

Marc Ambinder, who isn't The Atlantic any more than Andrew Sullivan is, but thanks for that, LJ. Good to know.

She's incoming chair of the Senate Intelligence committee.

and Obama's the incoming President of the United States.

but, if she, along with the rest of the Democratic pearl-clutchers, wants to make a public to-do out of what sounds like a mistimed announcement, i'm sure Obama will be sure to make note of her loyalties.

"...and Obama's the incoming President of the United States."

It's turned out now that it was just a leak, but I don't understand a defense, in theory, of Presidents ignoring Congressional leaders. That never works out. Ever. What principle are you defending? The imperial presidency? That Congress should shut up about the issues before their committees? WTF?

Substitute the name "Bush" for "Obama," and tell me you'd make this argument.

I think the question becomes do we want a director with great experience who we feel we can trust to do the job expected of the CIA director while dealing with the danger of perception? Or do we want someone we know will act accordingly and not create a situation (through torture or perception of torture) where will will have a higher likelihood of being attacked here and abroad? In the end, I would prefer the latter.

There are various valid questions. One extremely valid one is, to anyone familiar with the history of CIA directors, is can an outsider be effective? (There are other valid questions about insiders, such as, can they avoid authorizing questionable, or beyond, acts?)

The record has been very lousy on that up to now. If anyone would like to name an outside CIA director they consider successful, we can debate that question.

I'll specifically note of some: William Raborn was a disaster. James R. Schlesinger did poorly, as did Stansfield Turner. William H. Webster seems to have accomplished nothing of note. James Woolsey never even got a one-on-one meeting with Clinton, and turned into a nutbar. John M. Deutch screwed up his own handling of documents, and accomplished what?

Maybe someone would like to speak up for George J. Tenet, but not me.

Primary examples of disastrous insiders, on the other hand, would be William Colby, and arguably Allen Dulles and Richard Helms.

Probably the only real example of a decent DCI who was an outsider was John McCone, but he could never get LBJ to listen to him, which is also essential characteristic.

Of course, Panetta may be able to be different from all these predecessors (and he's no longer DCI, of course, but merely head of the Agency): who can say, in advance?

But it's a valid question, are others. This has nothing to do with good intentions, of course.

And other, larger, question, is just how screwed up is the CIA inherently, and is it reformable at all?

And meanwhile, no one seems to want to pay any attention to Director of National Intelligence nominee Admiral Dennis Blair, and East Timor.

Here's a guy who directly disobeyed President Clinton's orders to cozy up to a genocidal military: why can't I get any major leftist blogger interested in this?

The essentialness of commas: change "Here's a guy who directly disobeyed President Clinton's orders to cozy up to a genocidal military" to "Here's a guy who directly disobeyed President Clinton's orders, to cozy up to a genocidal military...."

That was an important comma, Gary. I went to your link thinking this guy was a hero for disobeying Clinton, but it turns out Clinton tried to do the right thing (can't believe I typed that) and it was Blair who is the villain in the story.

Anyway, a very good post and yes, it certainly sounds like something that deserves a lot of attention.

Can anyone think of a non-disastrous recent head of the CIA, of whatever background?

Panetta will not be confirmed. Sorry, but I see no chance of it. If Feinstein and Rockefeller are already criticizing him, how difficult will it be for Republicans to filibuster him? Probably Feinstein and Rockefeller will join in, and maybe other Democrats who either (1) fear their complicity being revealed, or (2) favor torture. Or both, of course.

I have long admired Panetta, but I just don't see a chance that this will go through.

J. Michael Neal: You know, Jes, it would be nice if you paused to acknowledge a positive move by Obama before moving the goalposts.

My goalposts are where they always were, Michael.

I want the US to return to the rule of law: torture is illegal, and the people who authorised torture should be prosecuted as well as those who got their hands dirty committing it.

Maybe I'll never see that happen. But that's where my goalposts are fixed, and have been fixed for years. You can fairly accuse me of not leaping to praise Obama for things he's announced he plans to do once he's President, that's perfectly true. I'm a little wary of all this praise for things that haven't happened yet. Politicians need public pressure to live up to their committments, as well as pointed public praise for their promises.

But no: I'm not moving my goalposts. Not for all the stushie in creation.

I pass this on in case anyone missed it, from TPM. It gives another possible interpretation. Chunk I found interesting

I think there is a lot more here than is being said. I believe that Feinstein did not want someone like Panetta who has a large and independent power base and network. If you get a career guy they are a lot easier to isolate and move around. Panetta has been around for a long time and has his own network. I actually think that it is a good choice. He knows how intelligence needs to be presented to the President - that is the critical issue here.

...

The issue is not intell guy or non-intell guy. The big issue for Blair and Panetta is strategic or tactical orientation. We are fighting two wars and the warfighter always screams they don't have enough intel or enough of anything for that matter. The dice are so loaded for support to the warfighter that critical strategic intelligence for the President and other senior leaders goes wanting due to time constraints on collection assets.

We need a significant re-orientation away from tactical support by CIA and other National agencies and back to their primary mission - direct intelligence support to the President. The last 15 years have seen an explosion of tactical intelligence capability with the advent of UAVs (which DoD fought against for so long due to the fighter pilot mentality). National systems need to be re-oriented to national priorities and away from tactical or operational desires of the warfighter.

I think the Panetta selection is another indication of the change coming. I was concerned that the selection of Jones as National Security Advisor and Blair as DNI underscored the great concern that I have about the militarization of intelligence. The selection of Panetta, with a much wider and deeper power base than either of them, makes me hopeful in this regard. Panetta is a skilled operator, he knows how to get things done. He knows how to get a budget approved and to make the wheels of government work. He will be a force - both in the Administration and on the Hill -- much larger than any career guy could be. This is good. It gives the CIA the opportunity to re-create itself within the current structure.

"I'm a little wary of all this praise for things that haven't happened yet."

But you leap to criticize for things that haven't happened yet, and apparently see no inconsistency with that.

"Primary examples of disastrous insiders, on the other hand, would be William Colby"

This was intended to be, and should be, "William J. Casey," not "William Colby." Sorry!

"Can anyone think of a non-disastrous recent head of the CIA, of whatever background?"

Ironically enough, it occurs to me the next morning that probably the best case can be made, post-McCone, for George H. W. Bush.

What principle are you defending?

a. that we don't know the whole story
b. that courtesy isn't law
c. that Obama can nominate anyone he damn well pleases
d. that Congress has a role in this, but they're jumping ahead
e. etc

"b. that courtesy isn't law
c. that Obama can nominate anyone he damn well pleases"

And who, specifically, has contested otherwise in this thread?

"d. that Congress has a role in this, but they're jumping ahead"

Congress, last I looked, has free speech. A president, or president-elect, ignores their views at peril.

You didn't respond to this: Substitute the name "Bush" for "Obama," and tell me you'd make this argument.

I think a larger issue is that the entrenched bureaucracy is historically problematic with outsiders being handed the reins....I’m OK with that, but if it’s really the case that there is no qualified individual in the organization untainted by torture then maybe it’s time to tear it down and start over. That would also resolve the entrenched bureaucracy issue.

The CIA should be dismantled and rebuilt from the ground up without the DO. It has a long history of lawlessness, horrible decision making, lying to congress and the president, etc. The idea that it's going to rebel against an "outsider" just confirms that it's broken.

And who, specifically, has contested otherwise in this thread?

i don't know. i didn't check.

Congress, last I looked, has free speech.

and so do i! god bless america.

A president, or president-elect, ignores their views at peril.

and a congressperson with a barely-positive approval rating ignores the wishes of an enormously popular president-elect at her peril.

You didn't respond to this

because i thought it was silly.

Substitute the name "Bush" for "Obama," and tell me you'd make this argument.

of course i would. what's partisan about pointing out the separation of powers ?

"The idea that it's going to rebel against an "outsider""

I don't think the concern is that the CIA would "rebel" against another outsider Director any more than it did against any of the previous long string of outsider Directors. I think the concern is that an outside Director won't know enough of the ins and outs and nitty-gritty of the Agency to effectively be able to get it to do what it needs to do.

There's certainly a lot of evidence of this problem existing in the past with most outsider Directors, to one degree or another. It's just a fact.

Now, as I said, McCone was a good leader despite being an outsider: his problem was that LBJ never listened to him. Having a head of the Agency who isn't listened to by the President is a huge problem, and alway is whenever that's happened, which has been several times in the past; a Director who has the ear of the President is just as important as having a head of the agency who can manage it effectively.

Panetta would most likely be very effective at getting Obama to listen to him. Whether he could be an effective manager of the Agency, via subordinates, is a question I don't think anyone could clearly answer until he's tried.

"The CIA should be dismantled and rebuilt from the ground up without the DO."

There's certainly plenty of support in CIA history for that. Most operations have been ineffective, in many cases getting a lot of people killed (parachuting them into Tibet, or Ukraine, or China, in vain attempts to start rebellions or intelligence networks, for instance); those that have been "effective" have often had horrible blowback in the long run (overthrowing Mosaddeq, overthrowing Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, funding the Afghan Mujahideen, etc.).

what Ugh said.

And who, specifically, has contested otherwise in this thread?

i don't know. i didn't check.

Ok, so you're just responding to your own straw man.

"what's partisan about pointing out the separation of powers ?"

Yes, separation of powers is exactly why Congress gets to vote on, and speak about, the President's cabinet, and other nominees subject to confirmation.

Ok, so you're just responding to your own straw man.

no, Gary, i'm stating my opinion about Feinstein and her comments, while you keep trying to steer me into an argument you'd apparently love to have.

Ironically enough, it occurs to me the next morning that probably the best case can be made, post-McCone, for George H. W. Bush.

If the two most recent nondisastrous CIA heads have been outsiders, why is outsiderness such a concern?

"If the two most recent nondisastrous CIA heads have been outsiders"

Huh? Who are you talking about? I can't make sense of this.

If it helps, here's a list of CIA directors:

* 2.1 Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter, 1947-1950
* 2.2 Walter Bedell Smith, 1950-1953
* 2.3 Allen W. Dulles 1953–1961
* 2.4 John McCone 1961-1965
* 2.5 William Raborn 1965–1966
* 2.6 Richard M. Helms 1966–1973
* 2.7 James R. Schlesinger 1973
* 2.8 William Colby 1973–1976
* 2.9 George H. W. Bush 1976–1977
* 2.10 Stansfield Turner 1977–1981
* 2.11 William J. Casey 1981–1987
* 2.12 William H. Webster 1987–1991
* 2.13 Robert M. Gates 1991–1993
* 2.14 R. James Woolsey 1993–1995
* 2.15 John M. Deutch 1995–1996
* 2.16 George J. Tenet 1997–2004
* 2.17 Porter J. Goss 2004–2005
* 2.18 Michael Hayden 2006-present

I wouldn't count Goss as an insider, though I suppose some might, based on his low-level experience from 1960 until 1971 with the Agency. But that was as a grunt, and long ago.

The jury is still out on Hayden. I wouldn't count Tenet or Deutch as successes, though there's a case to be made for Tenet. Gates was probably the most successful most recent director, and he was as insider as it gets. Casey was an insider, though arguably I'm being inconsistent in counting him, but not Goss, as such; but Casey led the CIA deeply and thoroughly into Iran-Contra. G. H. W. Bush had a successful tenure, but that was fairly long ago, and long before 6 subsequent outsider directors.

Who, exactly, are you talking about?

Gary, Hilzoy asked "Can anyone think of a non-disastrous recent head of the CIA, of whatever background?"

Your answer was "Ironically enough, it occurs to me the next morning that probably the best case can be made, post-McCone, for George H. W. Bush."

That seems to me to be a statement that the most recent nondisastrous directors were McCone and Bush, but perhaps you have another way of interpreting it. The number of other outsiders since Bush is irrelevant to the claim.

I was going to add that Bush Sr. would be one example of a non-disastrous outsider, but I see that has already been covered.

Well, when Obama's first choice got shot down I remember thinking, "That's the mistake that's goinng to dog his Presidency." But I tend toward paranoid and depressive prophecies.

So here's the whole prophecy: the leaker who tipped off DiFi did so to block Pinella because the leaker doesn't want an independent head of the CIA who is there to serve country and President and reform the agency. The leaker wants a Republican or the wrong kind of Democrat, someone who is there to serve the CIA.

The leaker is in the CIA. This is the first rogue act of an anti-Obama rogue CIA.

If Obama doesn't put an insider in charge, there will be more rogue acts done to undermine Obama, perhaps even efforts to allow an act of terrorism in order to discredit him. Many government agencies are full of people desperate for change. My guess is that the Dept of Justice is full of people who hung on, counting the days until they could function as ethical professinals again.

But not the CIA. The CIA is full of crazy, mean people. And that's not counting the ones that came in with Bush. That's the norm, the culture.

So my prophecy is: if Obama succeeds in placing the kind of person that lefties like us like, but that bad Democrats like DiFi, career CIA people, and Republicans don't like, then the CIA will sabotage Obama's Presidency.

On the otherhand...

If Obama puts a career insider in charge the insider will be able to use the agency as a tool for Obama because such a course of action will benefit the insider's career. Torture will stop (or go very much underground)because Obama doesn't like it. There will be no housecleaning but the agency will function and there won't be active sabotage of the Obama administration.

I prefer that option because there isn't going to be any accountability or housecleaning at the CIA anyway, no matter who is in charge. An insider can change behavior of subordinates (or cover for the behavior of subordinates). An outsider won't know what the subordinates are doing. An insider can control the information flow to deliever the message the insider wants to deliver. An outsider will get access only to the info which subordinates control. And so on.

We can't burn the CIA to the ground because it is too powerful. Besides the CIA is chock full of crazy people who, if not working for the CIA, will be out roaming the world looking for someone else to pay them to do terrible things. Kind of like how when you step on a puffball mushroom a cloud of spores are released.

Or a good, loud, explosive sneeze that sprays viruses all over the place.

So in a weird roundabout way I think it would be best if Obama did not put a reform-minded outsider in charge because he will have more actual control if he picks an amoral timeserving careerist.

But then this is one of my cynical days.

wonkie, how scary. Maybe true though. I hope not.

Well, I suffer from flashbacks to the Carter adminstration.

"That seems to me to be a statement that the most recent nondisastrous directors were McCone and Bush"

Sorry; I phrased my response to Hilzoy badly; I was referring only to G. H. W. Bush.

Obviously John McCone, as JFK's replacement for Allen Dulles, was not a "recent" non-disastrous DCI.

Nor was he remotely the most recent non-disastrous DCI; that would be Robert Gates, I think.

Thus my not making sense of your response, but my apologies for writing a very unclear response to Hilzoy, myself.

"But not the CIA. The CIA is full of crazy, mean people. And that's not counting the ones that came in with Bush. That's the norm, the culture."

Um. Full of?

Do you have any cites to go with this? What do you base this on? And where, exactly, do you get your statistics from? Beyond cant and imagination?

Would you like to tell this to Valerie Plame's face?

And, of course, the Bush folks and Republicans have spent the last eight years convinced the CIA is full of Democratic liberal wimps conspiring against G. Bush. Just as they historically have been convinced of the liberal nature of CIA employees, what with their "reality"-based views, and all. Thus Reagan's appointment of William Casey to "restore" the CIA, and prior to that, Team B.

Then I'm still not sure what you meant by "probably the best case can be made, post-McCone, for George H. W. Bush." Best as compared to what other possibilities?

(Also, I realize McCone is not recent, but that on its own would not prevent him from being the second most recent, or even the most recent.)

"Best as compared to what other possibilities?"

Sorry, best compared to other recent outsider Directors. Which isn't what Hilzoy asked, which is part of why I apologized for my very badly worded response.

And to elaborate slightly, I don't know that I'd call John Deutch disastrous, so much as undistinguished. Of course, he was also only there for two years. And Webster lowered morale, and was similarly undistinguished; the best that he can be said to have accomplished was removing the taint and rogues of William Casey. "Disastrous" might be over-strong, but, then, it's hardly the bar we should be measuring by, either. Who has been truly successful in running the agency, reforming it, and making it effective, and who has not, should be the bar.

One might suggest Tenet hadn't been bad, save for being a Bush-enabler at some crucial moments, and that whole "September 11th" thing, but those are rather large blips, to say the least.

The rap on Richard Helms is that he was there during the creation of the "family jewels," and was as insidery as it gets, in terms of protecting the CIA; he was certainly effective at running the agency, especially if you count things like the Diem coup as a "success." Of course, he was also Director of Plans for the Bay of Pigs.

Really, coming up with a sensible, consistent, measure of "success" for a CIA director is problematic. Dulles was great for morale, but presided over the deaths of countless hundreds, if not thousands, of covert paramilitary operatives. Helms similarly was thought highly of inside the agency, but was not what we in retrospect consider a DCI who took care of business in a non-dirty way.

Turner was "clean," but also horrible for morale, and otherwise not particularly effictive or notable.

In the end, about the only Directors I can put forward any sort of tolerant feelings for were Walter Bedell Smith, John McCone, William Colby (and he presided over the Phoenix Program, while the Agency missed the Egyptians being about to launch the Yom Kippur War -- but he did accomplish a lot of good in reforming the Agency), George H. W. Bush, and Robert Gates (and he was only Director for two years, as well). It's a short list.

McCone is the only one who truly stands out, as he consistently tried to tell Johnson the truth about Vietnam, but he was never listened to.

Pre-Colby, the problem can't be separated from the "dirty tricks" and coups of the Directorate of Operations, as well.

On consulting the Congress, crazy anti-Obama guy Joe Biden:

Vice President-elect Joe Biden -- offering one last defense of the institution he's inhabited for three decades -- conceded the Obama transition team made a "mistake" in not consulting the Senate before tapping Leon Panetta to head the CIA.

"I'm still a Senate man and I always think this way," he told reporters in the Capitol. "I think it's always good to talk to the requisite members of Congress."

On Monday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the incoming chairperson of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she was surprised by the pick and complained that she wasn't consulted.

"I think it was just a mistake," Biden said of the transition team's failure to check in with Feinstein and outgoing Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), who was also miffed.

Darn unreasonable Administration critics.

I would say it to Valerie Plume's face. As a long time career professional in the CIA, she might agree. As for data: the historical record of CIA activities of which Watergate, Iran-contra, the crimes exposed by the Church hearings and the pervasive support for torture are all examples. just the fact that Obama can't find an insider who isn't compromised on torture is a big clue about the CIA's institutional culture.

How on earth does Watergate demonstrate that "[t]he CIA is full of crazy, mean people"? The CIA had nothing to do with Watergate, other than giving Howard Hunt a disguise without knowing why. That's it.

Setting that one aside as a wtf?, suggesting that the institutional abuses (of decades ago, but never mind) of DO operations were done because the people were "mean" is just, I'm sorry, a childish analysis.

Call them horrible mistakes, call them immoral, call them strategic blunders, call them derived from a wartime mentality, call them just wrong, you can call them many things, but the idea that they happened because people were mean is just silly and superficial beyond words.

Moreover, Iran-Contra was a creation of Casey, and Poindexter, and North; blaming the rank-and-file of the CIA, most of whom opposed it when they knew about it, is again, just factually wrong.

Neither was there "pervasive support" of torture. If you have a cite indicating there was such at thing at the Directorate of Intelligence, or the Directorate of Support, or the Directorate of Science and Technology, which make up the vast bulk of the CIA, please do give it. If you even have a cite showing that the majority of the National Clandestine Service support torture, please give it.

But honestly: are you even familiar with the basic divisions of the CIA? Because I can't but help, given your generalizations, and I'm sorry if this sounds rough, from wondering if you know more about the CIA than vague generalized impressions.

Maybe you could mention which books you've read on the CIA?

"The CIA had nothing to do with Watergate, other than giving Howard Hunt a disguise without knowing why."

To be clear, Nixon created the Plumbers because the CIA and FBI wouldn't do the job he wanted. This is Watergate 101.

OCSteve: if it’s really the case that there is no qualified individual in the organization untainted by torture then maybe it’s time to tear it down and start over.

I'd say that's exactly what the CIA honchos and their captured "overseers" on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence are afraid of -- because Leon Panetta has the bureacratic experience, moral standing, and credibility to take on that job.

Re Dennis Blair: I have my doubts that he was actually defying Clinton policy, but either way anyone significantly involved with U.S. policy toward Indonesia and East Timor has buckets of blood on their hands -- starting with Henry Kissinger and Gerald Ford, and continuing without a break right on through the Carter, Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton administrations. All those Secretaries of State, CIA directors, and chiefs of staff of the services, and the presidents who maintained the policy of never doing anything that would actually stop the Indonesian massacres.

Of course, cozying up to the Indonesian military and (at minimum) looking the other way during massive bloodbaths are a tradition that goes back before 1975. One with which our incoming president is much more familiar than the average member of the political elite.

I'd say the appointment of Dennis Blair signals that Obama's going to try to forget what he once knew.

It was pretty clearly never the intention of the Obama team to nominate Panetta without talking to the Senate, including of course Feinstein, the Intel chair; my evidence for that is that they did talk to Ron Wyden, the next senior Democrat on the committee. So I'm buying the theory that the leak happened before they could talk to Feinstein.

But corporate and intel tools Feinstein and Rockefeller had an insider candidate, and their very public whining has a lot more to do with not being told than not getting their way.

Gaaah. What I meant to say is the other way around: Feinstein's very public complaining has more to do with not getting her favored candidate than with not being told about Panetta.

"Feinstein's very public complaining has more to do with not getting her favored candidate than with not being told about Panetta."

I'm sure that's true. Ditto Jay Rockefeller.

For what it's worth, apparently Ron Wyden was told before Feinstein.

Which is what I said at 10:29.

Sorry; couldn't resist the chance to Farberize.

After the malign influence of "24", the infamous walk on the dark side, and so on, I think the biggest obstacle to reform comes from people convinced that torture does not compromise enlightenment principles in the way accepting the Islamic law the Salafists supposedly want to impose on us all would. In fact, allowing the government to torture does surrender the ideals to which Jefferson, Hancock, et. al. pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honour. If we in this generation give up without a struggle the enlightenment heritage our predecessors gave their lives by the thousands to uphold, then we really have nothing left to defend.

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