Obama picks Leon Panetta as CIA head

WASHINGTON – US president-elect Barack Obama has chosen former White House chief of staff Leon Panetta to head the Central Intelligence Agency, a Democratic Party official told AFP Monday.

In turning to a political heavyweight with no direct background in intelligence, Obama appeared to be opting for someone who would bring fresh eyes and credibility to an agency battered by controversy over its conduct of the war on terrorism.

“Here is a guy who will be very credible with the Democrats in Congress and here’s someone who brings not only an outsider’s perspective but knows how the White House works,” said James Lewis, an intelligence expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“He knows what presidents want and need. That’s a plus,” he said.

Panetta was former president Bill Clinton’s chief of staff from 1994 to 1997, following a 16-year career as a lawmaker from California.

Although his expertise in the House of Representatives and in the Clinton administration was in budgets and finance, observers say his political savvy and connections should make him a powerful CIA director.

His appointment will also help Obama reassure critics who worry that the leadership of the US intelligence community has been dominated in recent years by the US military.[Continue Reading...]

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