Yesterday, word leaked that President-elect Obama had selected Leon Panetta to head the CIA. Panetta was selected for “his managerial skills, his bipartisan standing, and the foreign policy and budget experience he gained under President Bill Clinton,” the New York Times reported.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee praised Panetta as a “strong choice” who “has the skills to usher in a new era of accountability at the nation’s premier intelligence agency.” The Chairman of the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), said he believes Panetta “would serve the intelligence community, the President, and the country well.”
Shortly after the news leaked, however, the incoming chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), issued a statement complaining that she was not “consulted” about the Panetta selection and condemning his appointment:
“I was not informed about the selection of Leon Panetta to be the CIA Director. I know nothing about this, other than what I’ve read,” said Senator Feinstein, who will chair the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in the 111th Congress.
“My position has consistently been that I believe the Agency is best-served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time.”
Similarly, the outgoing chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), said through a spokesperson that he was “puzzled by the selection.”
But when it came to approving of Bush nominees who defended torture, illegal wirteapping, and the Iraq war, Feinstein and Rockefeller never complained. Consider their voting records on key Bush appointees:
|Appointee||Feinstein’s Vote||Rockefeller’s Vote|
|Tom Ridge, Homeland Security||Not Voting||Yea|
|Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security||Yea||Yea|
|Condoleezza Rice, State Department||Yea||Yea|
|Donald Rumsfeld, Defense Department||Voice Vote, No Objection|
|Michael Hayden, CIA Director||Yea||Not Voting|
|Porter Goss, CIA Director||Yea||Nay|
|Michael Mukasey, Attorney General||Yea||Nay|
In justifying her vote to confirm Porter Goss as CIA director in 2004, Feinstein said, “I believe the President should have the prerogative to appoint who he wants to be the DCI, or for any other senior position, subject only to the requirement that the person be qualified for the job.” Indeed, as Matt Yglesias writes, “it’s worth noting that not only has it never been the case that the CIA Director must be a career intelligence professional, it’s also long been the case that past service as a White House Chief of Staff has been viewed as a wide-ranging qualification for future public office.”