Clearing the Air

/ January 9, 2009 at 5:00 AM

President-elect Obama today reiterated his support for nominating Leon Panetta as head of the CIA, despite doubts in the blogosphere and among pundits. At the press conference where he officially announced Panetta as his choice (as well as retired Adm. Dennis Blair to become director of national intelligence), Obama said:

Let me be clear: in Leon Panetta, the Agency will have a director who has my complete trust and substantial clout. He will be a strong manager and a strong advocate for the CIA. He knows how to focus resources where they are needed, and he has a proven track record of building consensus and working on a bipartisan basis with Congress. I am confident that he will strengthen the CIA’s capability to protect the American people as it continues to adapt to our reformed intelligence community.

In addition to Blair and Panetta, the president-elect also announced other intel community appointments:

I will also rely on the talent and expertise of several distinguished public servants with substantial intelligence experience. The current DNI, Mike McConnell, will continue to offer his counsel through my Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. The National Counter-Terrorism Center -- the hub of our efforts to prevent attacks and root out terrorist networks -- will continue to benefit from the leadership of Michael Leiter. And I'm pleased to announce that John Brennan -- a close advisor, CIA veteran and former leader of the National Counter-Terrorism Center -- will be my Homeland Security Advisor and Deputy National Security Advisor for Counterterrorism, serving with the rank of Assistant to the President. John has the experience, vision and integrity to advance America's security.

The demands on the intelligence community are huge and growing. To have a successful and sustainable national security strategy, I have made it clear that we will need to deploy and balance all elements of American power -- our military, diplomacy, homeland security, economic might and moral suasion. Good intelligence work is necessary to support each of these endeavors.

Right now, there are men and women working around the world to bear this burden. We may never know their names, but we will always honor their sacrifice. The task for the team that I have assembled is to guide, support, and integrate their efforts so that we protect our security and safeguard the values that all of us have pledged to uphold. Thank you.

-- John Liang