Panetta under fire already

Both the incoming and outgoing chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee are criticizing Barack Obama's choice to head the CIA.

By Alex Koppelman

Published January 6, 2009 1:55AM (EST)

Apparently, when it comes to choosing the next head of the CIA, Barack Obama just can't win.

The president-elect chose former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, a relative neophyte when it comes to intelligence issues, because the viable candidates who have experience with the Agency or in other areas of intelligence-gathering are all tainted by the Bush administration's policies.

After that news broke, it was only a matter of hours before two Democrats vital to Panetta's confirmation hopes came out to criticize the choice.

First, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the incoming chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, released a statement in which she said, "I was not informed about the selection of Leon Panetta to be the CIA Director. I know nothing about this, other than what I've read. My position has consistently been that I believe the Agency is best-served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time."

Feinstein's predecessor as committee chair, Jay Rockefeller, was similarly nonplussed. NBC News reports that an aide to the senator says Rockefeller has "tremendous respect" for Panetta, but that "he believes the CIA director should go to someone who has significant intelligence experience and someone from outside the political world of Washington D.C."

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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