WaPo's Ignatius Praises Panetta: He Can 'Fend Off Critics', Omits Panetta Fended for Clinton During Filegate

January 7th, 2009 3:38 PM

President-elect Barack Obama is bringing back yet another Clinton retread. While many question former Clinton White House chief of staff Leon Panetta as the best choice to head up the CIA, due to his lack of experience in the world of intelligence, the Washington Post's David Ignatius has nothing but praise for Obama's pick.(my emphasis throughout:)

Here's the message, according to Obama's advisers: Panetta is a Washington heavyweight with the political clout to protect the agency and help it rebuild after a traumatic eight years under George Bush, when it became a kind of national pincushion.

"Leon is not going to preside over the demise of the CIA," explains one member of the Obama transition team. "The CIA needs to have someone who can represent them well."

This argument for Panetta makes sense. Ideally, the next CIA director would have been an experienced professional -- someone like Steve Kappes, the veteran case officer who now serves as deputy director. But the reality is that the professionals now lack the political muscle to fend off the agency's critics and second-guessers. That's the heart of the problem: The agency needs to rebuild political support before it can be depoliticized.

Ignatius is right about one thing. Panetta is very good about fending off critics and second guessers. However, Ignatius conveniently fails to mention Panetta's pathetic excuses in 1996 over why several hundred FBI background reports on American citizens were obtained by Craig Livingstone.

Livingstone was a former bouncer who was hired to head up security at the Clinton White House. According to the September 25th 1997 Congressional Record no one seemed to know who hired him at the time.

These FBI background reports contained confidential information on mainly GOP appointees, including former Secretary of State James Baker, former White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater, and Tony Blankley, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's press secretary. A 1996 CNN article details Panetta's lame excuse at the time:

A House committee chairman said he will investigate how and why the White House obtained hundreds of FBI background reports, among them files on prominent Republicans. GOP challenger Robert Dole suggested President Bill Clinton should personally take responsibility for the incident.

Chief of staff Leon Panetta apologized over the weekend for the blunder, which he termed both "inexcusable" and "a completely honest bureaucratic snafu." In an interview with CNN, Dole said, "This isn't the Panetta administration," and suggested the voters want to hear an explanation directly from the president.

In 2000 the L.A. Times reported that, after a 6-year investigation of "Filegate", independent counsel Robert Ray found no criminal wrongdoing. The saga was chalked up as a "bureaucratic blunder."

Igantius may think a political heavyweight like Panetta will benefit the CIA and the Obama administration, but he fails to mention how Americans can count on Panetta to keep the nation safe.

Bureaucratic blunder or not confidential information was compromised, nonetheless. We are living in a post 9/11 world now. Is this the kind of leadership America really wants in a CIA chief?