January 7, 2009

Leon Pinata - Intelligence Not His Long Suit

Hatched by Dafydd

(The name in the title should be Leon Piñata, of course; but I can't make that Spanish character appear in the title of a Movable Type post.)

Yesterday, Gov. Bill Richardson, who is Latin, mucked his hand, announcing that he would not accept the nomination as Secretary of Commerce, which had been considered a done deal for some time. Oddly enough, on or about that same day, President-elect Barack H. Obama announced that he was appointing a different Latin -- our Mr. Piñata -- to be the Director of the CIA; this despite the fact that he has no background or training in, and evidently no knowledge about, the intelligence field... a fact so glaring that even the New York Times and Ape News took note. [I originally wrote that Piñata was "Hispanic;" but I am reliably informed by commenter John Cunningham that the man is of Italian heritage instead. So I cunningly changed the term to "Latin," which surely nobody can deny! But he's still going to be treated like a piñata in his confirmation hearings, so that appellation stands.]

From the former:

The choice, disclosed Monday by Democratic officials, immediately revealed divisions in the party as two senior lawmakers questioned why Mr. Obama would nominate a candidate with limited experience in intelligence matters.

One of those "senior lawmakers" is Gloriana herself, the AbFab DiFi (D-CA, 90%); she particularly spread herself on Leon's limitations:

Among the lawmakers who expressed skepticism about the choice was Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California and the new chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Ms. Feinstein, who would oversee any confirmation hearing for Mr. Panetta, issued a statement that signaled clear disapproval and said she had not been notified about the choice.

“My position has consistently been that I believe the agency is best served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time,” she said. [As opposed to a dilettante amateur.]

A second top Democrat, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the departing chairman of the Intelligence Committee, shares Ms. Feinstein’s concerns, Democratic Congressional aides said.

On the whole, it is a puzzling nomination: Why pick a complete naif in intelligence matters -- at the very moment we're fighting a life and death struggle with an enemy who strikes by stealth and terror, against whom our only hope for victory (perhaps even survival) is strong, effective, and robust intelligence-gathering?

The Piñata appointment seems to fly in the eyes of the other major cabinet-level appointments of the One, which by and large have been substantive and centrist and have stressed continuity with the Bush administration, rather than the radical U-turn Obama promised during the campaign.

So what is really going on here? It should be obvious. While in many other areas Obama can simply follow in George W. Bush's footsteps, in the realm of intel, he is constrained not only by his own gormless and hypocritical maunderings but by his party's deepest held belief: By definition, aggressive intelligence-gathering violates the sacred constitutional rights of terrorists. Thus:

The choice of Mr. Panetta comes nearly two weeks after Mr. Obama had otherwise wrapped up his major personnel moves. It appears to reflect the difficulty Mr. Obama has encountered in finding a candidate who is capable of taking charge of the agency but is not tied to the interrogation and detention program run by the C.I.A. under President Bush.

Aides have said that Mr. Obama had originally hoped to select a C.I.A. director with extensive field experience, especially in combating terrorist networks. But his first choice for the job, John O. Brennan, had to withdraw his name amid criticism over his alleged role in the formation of the agency’s detention and interrogation program after the Sept. 11 attacks.

My second favorite blogger at my favorite blog, Power Line, summed it up:

I don't mean to suggest that intelligence gathering is peripheral to the CIA's mission. But it does seem these days that the CIA is a political actor first and an intelligence operation second. The selection of Panetta may reflect this "post-modern" reality.

The Left might forgive Obama for allowing our troops to remain in Iraq for a few years, or longer if things seem to settle down to a dull roar. They might yawn at his decision not to tax "the rich" into oblivion, not to demand that Israel commit national suicide, and to blow off "card check" and socialized medicine... at least for a while. But they would never forgive him did he not utterly repudiate -- by deed as well as word -- treating terrorist captives any worse than accused carjackers or shoplifters.

Obama must, must return to the Clintonian status-quo ante, where terrorism is just another crime to be tried in civilian court, with all the rules of evidence and rights for the accused. If he does not do this, the Left will abandon him in 2012, and may abandon the party itself in a scant two years.

Thus Incoming Obama selected Leon Piñata for two reasons:

  • He is Latin, to "replace" the disappearing Bill Richardson, allowing the P.E. to check the "L" box;
  • He has never had anything to do with intelligence, so he is not "tainted" by the highly aggressive, effective, and successful techniques employed by the Bush administration to keep us safe from attack for the last seven years.

The American Left has chosen to make its stand on the constitutional rights of foreign terrorists striking at this country, just as in times past they chose to make their stand on embracing Stalinism (or even Naziism, during the Hitler-Stalin Pact). As a man of the Left, who owes his election to the anti-Bush, anti-GOP rage stirred up by his leftist allies, Barack Obama cannot stand in their way... at least not on this particular issue.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 7, 2009, at the time of 2:07 AM

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The following hissed in response by: hunter

This is another example of the naive incompetence we will have under Obama.
Not only is Obama not going to have a honeymoon, he is not likely to have Congress after the next election.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 7, 2009 5:40 AM

The following hissed in response by: LarryD

Maybe not so naive. If Angleo CodeVillia and "Ishmael Jones" are correct, Panetta's job is really to keep the CIA bureaucracy from backstabbing Obama, like they have Bush. And as James Robbins points out, the Director of the CIA isn't as important a position in the Intel community as it used to be.

The above hissed in response by: LarryD [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 7, 2009 7:00 AM

The following hissed in response by: Karmi

The Inexperienced appointing the Inexperienced... (A new twist on the old 'Blind' saying, i.e. "Change.")

Looks like Obama is going to repeat Clinton's mistakes...

The above hissed in response by: Karmi [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 7, 2009 7:19 AM

The following hissed in response by: john.cunningham

Actually, Panetta is of Italian background, not Hispanic. otherwise, you have a good take on this pick. Obama wants a veteran operator to ride herd on CIA and keep it out of the news while he "builds socialism in one country."

The above hissed in response by: john.cunningham [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 7, 2009 1:22 PM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

My view is different than your Dafydd. I think Obama is covering his back, pure and simple. After watching the highly political CIA stick knives in Bush politically for eight years, Obama is merely recognizing the obvious by putting a politician in charge, one whose first loyalty is to the President. If Panetta proved anything as Chief of Staff to Clinton, it was that he is deft under enormous pressure. He will protect the President from the CIA. He will also act substantially to protect General Jones and Secretary Gates, whom I think the CIA would go after hard in furtherance of the BDS agenda.

The National Intelligence Director governs intelligence gathering and analysis from all agencies, of which the CIA is a middling sized part. The outsized responsibility the CIA retains, post reorganization and speaking politically (ie, not operationally), is the Presidents Daily brief and outsized input into NIE's directed to the President. Under Panetta I think Obama hopes the CIA will be brought back into line. I hope he is right, and that Panetta can get these rogues under control, because the CIA actions against Bush were ugly.

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 7, 2009 3:37 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

John Cunningham:

Please note how cleverly I incorporated your edit while retaining the thrust of the post...


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 7, 2009 4:28 PM

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