Thursday, February 12, 2009

Leon Panetta confirmed as CIA Director


The Senate confirmed Leon Panetta as director of the CIA on Thursday, placing the nation's top spy agency in the hands of a government veteran valued for his skills as a lawmaker and policy manager rather than an expert at intelligence-gathering and analysis.

The Senate approved President Barack Obama's choice on a voice vote. On Wednesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee sent Panetta's nomination to the full chamber without opposition.

During two days of confirmation hearings last week, Panetta told senators that the Obama administration would not prosecute CIA officers who participated in harsh interrogations even if they constituted torture as long as they did not go beyond their instructions. However, he would not say whether charges would be sought against those who authorized the treatment.

Panetta also said that the Obama administration would continue to transfer foreign detainees to other countries for questioning but only if U.S. officials are confident that the prisoners will not be tortured. Some former prisoners have claimed that they were tortured after the Bush administration handed them over to other countries, a transfer process known as "extraordinary rendition."

"We can protect this country, we can get the information we need, we can provide for the security of the American people and we can abide by the law," he told senators. "I'm absolutely convinced that we can do that."

Besides pledging not to interfere in the CIA's day-to-day intelligence operations, Panetta said he would keep on Deputy Director Steven Kappes and three other top officials at the spy agency. He also said he would encourage differing opinions within the agency and would brief the full House and Senate intelligence committees as much as possible, not just their top members. read more here

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