Obama Unveils Intelligence Team

Panetta, Blair, and Brennan an unusual, controversial crew
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 9, 2009 10:16 AM CST
President-elect Barack Obama makes remarks to a crowd on the nations economy, Friday, Jan. 8, 2009, at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.   (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)
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(Newser) – Barack Obama rounded out his national security team today, tapping Leon Panetta to head the CIA and Dennis Blair as his national intelligence director. Obama defended the choice of Panetta, which has drawn criticism because of his lack of intelligence experience, calling him "one of the finest public servants of our time," who will be "a strong manager and strong advocate for the CIA."

The Panetta choice was also applauded by Blair, who himself is expected to face a tough congressional confirmation. Blair has been criticized for his role in Indonesia’s crackdown in East Timor 10 years ago. Obama also named John Brennan as his top counterterrorism adviser. Brennan was originally a favorite to head the CIA, but backed out over fears that  confirmation would be impossible because of his his defense of controversial CIA tactics like extraordinary rendition. The new position doesn't require confirmation.