Friday, January 9, 2009

Ending the Torture Regime

The recent appointments to the national intelligence agencies by Obama are looking good, in terms of reforming the agencies and getting them back to where they need to be. Retired Admiral Dennis Blair as the Director of National Intelligence, Leon Panetta as the Director of the CIA, and John Brennan at the head of Counterintelligence inspire confidence and hope that we will have the intelligence agencies we need. Joe Cirincione writes:

President-elect Barack Obama on Friday appointed two seasoned professionals to the top intelligence posts. Dennis Blair will become the next Director for National Intelligence. He brings experience, honesty and great intelligence to a job that demands all that and more. Anyone who knows him, and I do, has no doubt that he will call it straight, never hesitate to tell the president the truth, however inconvenient, and will never, ever tell the president that something is a "slam-dunk."

Leon Panetta, who will now head the CIA, has to repair an agency abused and largely ignored by the Bush administration. As Bill Clinton's chief of staff, he was a major customer of intelligence products and knows better than most what the civilian leadership of the country needs from the agency. Blair, in introducing Panetta, spoke of his integrity. This, too, has been in short supply. There is no question that he will steer the agency away from torture and abuse. Like Blair, he has the confidence and standing to tell the president or the secretaries of state and defense when they are wrong.

The knock against Panetta is that he has no intelligence experience, and one would prefer it if he did, no doubt. And of course, one must remember that the CIA is just one of, what, a dozen different intelligence agencies in the government. Blair's would seem to be the more significant position, in any case.

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