Intelligence or politics?

We're going to feel a little less safe after Jan. 20 if Leon Panetta becomes director of the Central Intelligence Agency. President-elect Barack Obama has clearly caved in to the hard left if he follows through on this nomination.


Panetta is a good man and experienced political operative who would be a great appointment for any number of high level posts in the upcoming administration. But heading up the nation's spy agency isn't one of them.

For all of his previous experience in government as both an elected and appointed public official, Panetta has only had a glancing involvement in the complex, high-stakes world of intelligence gathering -- and that was as President Clinton's chief of staff when Clinton let Osama bin Laden off the hook.

It is apparent that Panetta is Obama's choice to head the agency because all the candidates with the requisite spying experience were tainted -- directly or indirectly -- with Bush administration policies that are anathema to Obama's hard left supporters.

These policies included heightened, rapid response surveillance activities, detention of Islamic terrorists at Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba and, on occasion when absolutely nothing else worked, employing coercive interrogation techniques to obtain vital information from key enemy captives -- a practice Bush-haters brand as "torture."

Obama blasted all of these policies during his campaign and promised to clean them up if he won the presidency. It looks like he picked Panetta -- who fully supports those criticisms -- to help him make good on those promises.

The problem is -- as a host of experienced CIA hands point out -- Bush's hard-nosed strategies may sometimes be distasteful, but in a very harsh world they are what have kept America safe since 9-11. Scrapping them in favor of ACLU-type "human rights" policies to protect terrorist suspects from being apprehended, incarcerated or interrogated is not the way to keep our country safe.

Panetta will have a lot to answer to during his confirmation hearings -- and if he is confirmed, we can only hope that we'll feel better about his CIA stewardship than we do now.