Feinstein Disses Panetta as Pick for CIA Chief

Surprise pick has no intelligence experience, committee concerned
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 6, 2009 8:14 AM CST
In this Dec. 5, 2006 file photo, Leon Panetta, then a member of the Iraq Study Group, walks into a Washington hotel.    (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf, File)
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(Newser) – Dianne Feinstein hinted yesterday that she had reservations about Barack Obama’s choice of Leon Panetta to head the CIA—which could be a problem for Obama, since Feinstein is the new chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “I was not informed about the selection,” she said. “My position has been that I believe the agency is best served by having an intelligence professional in charge.”

That’s a description that doesn’t fit Panetta, a respected political operator without discernible intelligence experience. A senior aide to outgoing Intelligence Committee head John Rockefeller said the senator “thinks very highly of Panetta” but “would have concerns” about his nomination, preferring a director with operational experience from “outside the political realm.” Historically, outsiders have fared poorly at the CIA, but some say one is needed to roll back Bush-era excesses.