Choosing Leon Panetta as the new Director of the CIA is foolish and dangerous.
Thanks to 8 years of the Bush administration's squandering resources abroad in Iraq, our homeland security remains woefully inadequate and stunningly vulnerable. Ports of entry, airline security, airport security, chemical and nuclear plants, mass transportation, biological facilities, water and food sources and even our banking systems all remain soft targets. Additionally, if historical indicators and patterns hold up, the timing may be ripe for another domestic terrorist attack.
In short, Americans can ill-afford an inexperienced Director of the CIA, who either doesn't appreciate our current terrorist threat or under-estimates it. This is no time for a learning curve or on the job training. Placing a person like Leon Panetta at CIA for his clean hands and "managerial expertise" will cost lives on the day of the next domestic terrorist attack.
Likewise, the choice of Panetta places immediate risks on our covert operatives who currently rely upon sound, skilled leadership in directing their activities. "Management" is not going to capture UBL. Nor is "good management" going to reign in rogue groups holing up in the hills of Afghanistan on the periphery of the Pakistani border. That's going to take institutional memory, understanding, and a long-term strategy. I don't think Panetta offers these.
As the argument goes: all the "really good, qualified people" were tainted by the torture scandal of the Bush years so they can't be picked to run CIA... Panetta was all we had left.
Give me a break.
Haven't the ripple effects of Bush's torture policies gone on long enough? Do we really need to settle for a substandard CIA Director because Bush dead-ended all other prospects?
Because, that's not "sending an unequivocal message that controversial administration policies approving harsh interrogations, waterboarding and extraordinary renditions and warrantless wiretapping are over," it's actually just being stupid, short-sighted, and leaving us in more danger.
Surely not every qualified person has been tainted by illegal torture policies. True, identifying, researching, and vetting such individuals might take a bit of work, but isn't our safety worth it?
It's also fairly important to consider the priorities being set by picking someone like Leon Panetta. What does such a bad pick say about the way the incoming administration values the role of Intelligence? With the bombings in Mumbai, the "unrest" in Gaza, the continued threat of Iran, the downward spiral of Afghanistan, and the ongoing debacle in Iraq, is it smart to have a clueless CIA Director?
Historically, a constant turf war has existed between the Department of Defense and CIA. These turf wars are often not rightly about who could better protect the American public and the world at large, but more wrongly about power and money.
Inevitably, such "turf wars" also trickle down to the almighty Congressional Committees like the House and Senate Armed Services and Select Intelligence Committees, just to name a few. Here once again battles break out over money and power. Remember that lucrative defense contracts translate into beaucoup campaign dollars. It's a "you scratch my back while I scratch yours" kind of game.
So while listening to the choir sing about the pros and cons of Leon Panetta, remember that almost everybody who's got an opinion, has also got skin in the game. And some of them might even prefer to have an inexperienced Director of the CIA.
One good question might be what the Panetta selection means for Admiral Dennis Blair who was selected as the new DNI. All the swirling talk about Panetta has seemed to eclipse any interest about Admiral Blair. He, too, deserves scrutiny.
But perhaps, most pointedly, what does the Panetta pick mean for Secretary of Defense Robert Gates?
Gates is certainly no novice. He knows what he is doing; he knows the players; and most importantly, he knows how to play the game. All of this means that Gates will likely walk -- if not trounce -- all over Leon Panetta and the CIA.
Do we really need so much power placed in the hands of our Secretary of Defense, again?
Haven't we already learned that lesson?