Monday, January 5, 2009

Is Leon Panetta the Right Choice for CIA Director?

I believe he is an inspired choice. Why? What the intelligence community needs most at this time is a firm management hand and strong ethical guidance, and Mr. Panetta has both. Not only has he managed the Office of the President as Chief of Staff for President Clinton, but he managed the budget process for all federal agencies, including the CIA, as Director of the Office of Management and Budget in the 90s. His contacts in Congress are excellent, from his years representing the Monterey Peninsula in the House, including as Chairman of the House Budget Committee - which reviewed and approved the CIA's budget. All of these roles, and his membership in the recent Iraq Study Group, give him the capability to succeed with the management and budgetary issues facing the intelligence community.

More important, the intelligence community has suffered through some poor choices in recent years. These have included yielding to what was probably political pressure leading the agency to mistakenly conclude in 2002-2003 that WMD were present in Iraq, and the decisions to use interrogation techniques that have not gone down well in our democratic society, no matter how justified our cause in combating terrorism.

These problems require a leader with a strong ethical compass, who will use good judgment in making key choices for the intelligence community. In addition to his prior government service that met high standards for good judgment and ethics, Mr. Panetta has spent the past decade thinking about leadership and ethics, teaching and lecturing about these topics, and training young people to engage in ethical government service through the Panetta Institute at Cal State Monterey Bay. He has the qualities of high moral standards and good judgement that are essential for the intelligence community at this time.

Concerns have been expressed that Panetta would be viewed as an outsider by the personnel in the intelligence agencies. But most CIA Directors for the past several decades have come from outside the intelligence community. They have included professors, businessmen and diplomats. Panetta is more of an insider than most of these folks.

It is also perhaps not widely known that there has been a major change in the intelligence agencies' personnel since 9/11. Some 50% of intel community staffers have joined since 9/11. This is not the hardened group of veteran analysts and operatives that it might have been in previous years, who perhaps would have protested or undercut the effectiveness of a director who was not "one of them". Many of the current staff are young and relatively new to the intelligence profession.

In addition, the intelligence community is involved in a makeover in how information is gathered, bringing into its practices the major developments from the civilian economy that have increased capabilities for finding and organizing information. For example, the intelligence community now has an "intellipedia", like wikipedia, where analysts from different fields and agencies can post and access information that previously would have only been accessible to a narrow range of people in a limited field.

Given this change in makeup and in its work process, I believe the intelligence community will welcome a man of Mr. Panetta's stature and capabilities as the fine leader who will secure their budgets and continue to improve their capabilities, while providing the moral compass to keep them out of trouble.

Besides all of this, Mr. Panetta's son, James, is a naval intelligence officer just awarded the Bronze Star for his work locating Al Qaida targets in Afghanistan.

I commend the choice of Mr. Panetta for this role, and wish him great success.

Gloria Duffy
President and CEO, The Commonwealth Club
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, 1993-1995


Bizprof said...

I agree with your assessment, Dr. Duffy, and would add that it is probably more important to know how to get the various intel operations to work together than to have an insiders' knowledge of the intel business.

John Z. said...

Another reader wrote to Dr. Duffy with the following response, and the writer asked me to post it here as a comment:
Gloria, I read your article and it is extremely well written and obviously well thought out. With great respect to you I would respectively disagree with the substance of your position.
I think you minimize the importance of Intelligence experience by simply stating he has been a great manager. I spent almost thirty years in various Middle Management positions at IBM and Siemens and without bragging was considered a excellent manager. Having said that I don't think I would be qualified to run the CIA, NASA or manage the San Jose Sharks.
In regard to your comments about WMD leading up to the Iraq war I could not be in more disagreement with you. The intelligence we had, which was also known to the Democrats was also the consenus agreement by England, and all other European intelligence agencies around the world. I also believe that the fact that WMD's were not found is a secondary issue. Iraq had violated multiple unanimous UN resolutions regarding inspections and various other violations which led to the Iraq War. Saddam Hussein was a terrorist who housed and supported El Quida and if you remember would send $25,000 to the family of any Suicide bomber who blew up innocent women and children in Israel. At the end of the day president Bush took action as he said he would against any terrorist or supporter of terrorists. Bottom line we freed over 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan who were under the thumb of dictators who used WMD's against their own people.
In regard to Panetta and his experience in the Clinton Adminsitration where he was clearly a key member and advisor to president Clinton, lets remember that president Clinton had Bin Laden in his gunsite and opted to do nothing, he was also part of an administration that did nothing after the first World Center Bombing as well as nothing when the Cole battleship was attacked.
Let me also say that various policies that Obama and Panetta are on record of supporting, i.e. No Water Boarding for captured terrorists who could have info that could stop terrorists attacks, opposition to FISA which would prevent us from acquiring crucial intelligence from telephone calls from overseas to the USA as well as rescinding many other post 911 Patriot Act policies that have prevented numerous plots on our country will put us in a position where we will now be susceptible to attacks which we have avoided for the last 7 years.
I know the liberal ACLU agenda does not want to give an inch as it relates to rights of Americans. However, there needs to be a distinction between that concept and protecting citizens from attacks from people who would kill us. I thank God (if I can use his name) for President Bush who chose to protect us from attack both from outside terrorists as well as the far left who would leave us vulnerable from attack.
Again, my comments are not meant to disrepect your position.

John Z. said...

We have another reader who wrote the following to Dr. Duffy and graciously let us add her comments to this thread:

I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of the Panetta appointment. I had occasion to work with him several years ago in connection with MOAA (Military Officers of America Assn, then known as The Retired Officers Assn), and I think he is a superb choice.

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