- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 10, 2009

Outgoing CIA Director Michael V. Hayden told employees Friday that his designated successor could learn more from them than the other way around.

“If confirmed by the Senate, he will learn from you about the CIA as it is now, starting with the decisive contributions you make each day to the strength and security of our country,” Mr. Hayden said of nominee Leon Panetta.

President-elect Barack Obama officially announced Friday that Mr. Panetta was his choice to head the CIA and that retired Adm. Dennis Blair would be the director of national intelligence. John O. Brennan will be Mr. Obama’s homeland security adviser and deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism, a post with the title assistant to the president and which is not subject to Senate confirmation.

The choice of Mr. Panetta, which was leaked to the press earlier this week, has caused some controversy because he lacks direct experience in the intelligence community.

It provoked sharp criticism from senior Democrats, including the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Dianne Feinstein, of California, who was not informed about the pick in advance. She later recanted her criticism after speaking with Mr. Panetta.

Mr. Hayden, who had made clear his desire to continue in the new administration, told employees, “To facilitate a smooth transition, the president-elect has asked me to stay on until the confirmation process for a new director is complete, and I have agreed.”

He said he and his deputy, Steve Kappes, had met with Mr. Panetta and “came away deeply impressed with his candor and clear commitment to the welfare of the men and women of CIA. It was apparent to us that he is eager to immerse himself in the details of intelligence and espionage.”

Mr. Obama said during his announcement Friday, “We must seamlessly collect, analyze, share and act on information with a sense of urgency.” He said torture would not be an option, and intelligence agencies must not seek information “to suit any ideological agenda” — a slap at the Bush administration’s encouragement of the CIA and other intelligence organizations to seek information supporting the invasion of Iraq.

Mr. Panetta is known primarily for his budget and managerial expertise. He served in the House from 1977 to 1993 but was not a member of the intelligence committee. From 1993 to 1994, he ran the Office of Management and Budget. He was White House chief of staff from 1994 to 1997. In 2006, he served on the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which recommended major changes in U.S. policy toward Iraq and the Middle East.

The announcement of the Panetta selection surprised many within the CIA who thought Mr. Hayden would be retained for a number of months and who said Mr. Hayden had boosted morale within the agency.

According to intelligence officers, the attrition rate was nearly 6 percent when Mr. Hayden became director, and in the past two years it has dropped to 4.1 percent, the agency’s lowest rate on record. The rate of resignations is currently 1.8 percent, the officers said.

However, Robert Steele, the author of six books on intelligence and the founding senior civilian of the Marine Corps Intelligence Center, said that “Panetta is actually the first DCI of substance since Bill Casey, the first since Casey who will not be bamboozled by the insiders or bullied by Congress and special interests.”

Mr. Brennan, who was Mr. Obama’s campaign adviser on intelligence, was another candidate for head of the CIA but withdrew his name after some left-leaning bloggers accused him of complicity in crafting interrogation policies for detainees that critics say amounted to torture.

In his new post, however, Mr. Brennan may have more influence over national security than he would have had as CIA chief. The 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act made the agency subservient in many ways to the director of national intelligence for intelligence analysis.

The primary role for the CIA today is its clandestine service, which recruits spies. But the Pentagon in recent years has stepped up both its intelligence gathering and “black” operation capabilities.

While the power balance in the next administration is still to be determined, it’s likely that the national security council will wield more influence than it has under the Bush presidency, when national security advisers failed to reign in warring bureaucratic factions.

John Deutch, CIA director from 1995 to 1996, said it was important to look at Mr. Obama’s intelligence picks as a team.

“You have Blair, Panetta and Brennan. They have a mixture of backgrounds and the mix is unusually strong,” Mr. Deutch said.

• Eli Lake and Barbara Slavin contributed to this story.

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