Recent press reports have indicated that President - elect Obama has decided on his choices to lead the intelligence community, choosing President Clinton’s former White House chief of staff Leon Panetta as CIA Director and retired Admiral Denis Blair as Director of National Intelligence. Obama is also expected to chose Indiana law professor Dawn Johnsen as Assistant Attorney General for the office of Legal Council [OLC]. After eight years of lawlessness and ever expanding executive power that have tarnished the intelligence community, these picks are indicative of Obama’s intent to work within the rule of law in fighting terrorism, sending an unequivocal message that controversial administration policies approving harsh interrogations, waterboarding and extraordinary renditions, and warrantless wiretapping are over.
Neither Panetta nor Blair is tainted by associations with Bush administration policies, in large part because they both come from outside the intelligence world. Initially, reports indicated that Obama would pick former CIA official John Brennan to had the agency. But he withdrew his name from consideration after several progressive bloggers raised concerns that he had supported Bush’s interrogation policies while at the CIA. Panetta represents a stark departure from the Bush administration’s intelligence professionals who were involved or closely associated with Bush’s torture policies.