Fmr. spies weigh in on Panetta pick

January 9, 2009 6:56:35 PM PST
Friday morning, President-elect Barack Obama officially announced Leon Panetta to be his pick to head the CIA. The Monterey native was a surprise choice for the job.

In naming Panetta to head the CIA, Obama said Panetta has his complete confidence and will have substantial clout.

"He will be a strong manager and a strong advocate for the CIA," Obama said.

Panetta said he felt compelled to accept the job and promised to work tirelessly.

"To provide you, Mr. President-elect, with the most accurate and objective intelligence that you need to lead this nation," Panetta said.

Obama's choice of Panetta has been criticized by some former operatives.

"This is somebody who really doesn't know very much about the game as it's currently being played," former counter terror chief Robert Grenier said.

Grenier says Panetta will be challenged, but former CIA Middle East operative Robert Baer told CNN Panetta is a good choice.

"We need somebody in that office with political clout and the reason I like Panetta is he'll be able to stand up to the state department and the defense department," Baer said.

On Monday, incoming senate intelligence committee chair Dianne Feinstein criticized Panetta's lack of experience, but that appears to have been more about the senator not being notified in advance of Panetta's selection, a slight the incoming CIA chief appeared to address Friday morning.

"I commit to consulting closely with my former colleagues in the congress to form the kind of partnership we need," Panetta said.

Panetta will be reporting to retired Navy Admiral Dennis Blair. Friday, Obama picked Blair to be director of national intelligence.