- The Washington Times - Friday, January 9, 2009

Outgoing CIA director Michael V. Hayden told employees Friday that he would help the transition at his agency but suggested 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 Leon Panetta.

President-elect Barack Obama Friday announced 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, a current CIA official, will be Mr. Obama’s top White House adviser on counterterrorism, a job that, unlike the other two, requires no 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 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.

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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.”

Mr. Obama said during his announcement Friday that “we must seamlessly collect, analyze, share and act on information with a sense of urgency.”

He stated that torture would not be an option when he is president and that 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 bodies to seek data supporting the invasion of Iraq.

Mr. Panetta,70, 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 that 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.”

“Panetta also knows two things no one at CIA knows, unique to being a White House Chief of Staff: He knows how bad ‘secrets for the President’ really have been, and he knows, deeply, what the President ‘needs to know’ and what cabinet members and the director of OMB need to know, which is unclassified decision support, none of which is available from CIA.”

Mr. Hayden said that he and Deputy Director Steve Kappes have met with Mr. Panetta.

“We came away deeply impressed with his candor and clear commitment to the welfare of the men and women of CIA,” Mr. Hayden said. “It was apparent to us that he is eager to immerse himself in the details of intelligence and espionage.” John Deutch, CIA director from 1995-96, 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.

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