(CNN) – A CIA spokesman is sharply downplaying Director Leon Panetta 's recent comments that appear to question whether former Vice President Dick Cheney is hoping for another terrorist attack against the United States.
"The Director does not believe the former Vice President wants an attack," CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said in a statement to CNN. "He did not say that. He was simply expressing his profound disagreement with the assertion that President Obama's security policies have made our country less safe. Nor did he question anyone's motives."
The statement comes days after the New Yorker published an interview with Panetta during which he said Cheney's recent criticism of Obama – including the decision to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba – show the ex-vice president "smells some blood in the water on the national security issue."
"It's almost, a little bit, gallows politics," said Panetta. "When you read behind it, it's almost as if he's wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point."
Cheney's office released a terse statement from the vice president Monday responding to the comments, saying "I hope my old friend Leon was misquoted."
"The important thing is whether or not the Obama Administration will continue the policies that have kept us safe for the last 8 years," Cheney said.
Vice President Joe Biden also appeared to distance himself from Panetta's comments Sunday, telling NBC "I don't question [Cheney's] motive."
– CNN's Pam Benson contributed to this report
(2:00 p.m. ET update with Cheney response)
(CNN) - Dick Cheney's recent criticism of the Obama administration's national security policies suggests the former vice president is almost "wishing" the United States gets hit with another terrorist attack, according to CIA Director Leon Panetta.
During an interview in the current issue of the New Yorker, Panetta says Cheney's wide range of recent criticisms of Obama - including the decision to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba - show the ex-vice president "smells some blood in the water on the national security issue."
Asked about Panetta's comments during an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden said he would refrain from questioning his predecessor's motives.
"I think Dick Cheney's judgment about how to secure America is faulty," Biden said. "I think our judgment is correct. I don't question his motive."
But Panetta, the former White House chief of staff under President Clinton, also said in the New Yorker interview it was "dangerous politics" for Cheney to repeatedly insist President Obama has made the country less safe.
Among Cheney's criticism is Obama's decision to cease the CIA's use of enhance interrogation techniques to extract information from terrorist suspects - a practice the former vice president says yielded information that prevented massive terrorist attacks, though he says security reasons prevent him from revealing specifically to which incidents he is referring.
Panetta said he supports the president's decision and, like Obama, does not think CIA agents who engaged in the techniques under President Bush should be prosecuted.
"I'm going to give people the benefit of the doubt," he said. "If they do the job that they're paid to do, I can't ask for a hell of a lot more."
UPDATE: In a statement provided to CNN, Cheney said, "I hope my old friend Leon was misquoted."
"The important thing is whether or not the Obama Administration will continue the policies that have kept us safe for the last 8 years."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded Friday to CIA Director Leon Panetta's public disagreement with her charge that she was misled by the agency on the use of waterboarding and other aggressive interrogation techniques.
"We all share great respect for the dedicated men and women of the intelligence community who are deeply committed to the safety and security of the American people," she said in a statement issued by her office. "My criticism of the manner in which the Bush Administration did not appropriately inform Congress is separate from my respect for those in the intelligence community who work to keep our country safe.
"What is important now is to be united in our commitment to ensuring the security of our country; that, and how Congress exercises its oversight responsibilities, will continue to be my focus as we move forward."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - CIA Director Leon Panetta is urging the agency's employees to "ignore the noise" surrounding House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's claim she was misled by the organization on interrogation techniques.
In a memo obtained by CNN, Panetta tells the workforce, "There is a long tradition in Washington of making political hay out of our business. It predates my service with this great institution, and it will be around long after I'm gone."
Full memo after the jump:
WASHINGTON (CNN) – CIA Director Leon Panetta has carried through on his pledge to prohibit independent contractors from conducting interrogations of terror suspects.
In a message to Agency employees on Thursday, Panetta said he had notified the Congressional oversight committees about the current CIA policy regarding interrogations.
Besides discontinuing the use of contractors, the director outlined the other steps taken in response to the executive orders issued by President Obama in January.
The harsh interrogation techniques authorized by the Bush administration will no longer be used. Panetta said questioning of suspected terrorists will follow the approaches authorized in the Army Field Manual. The Director said the Agency will "not tolerate, and will continue to promptly report, any inappropriate behavior or allegations of abuse." He added that the guidelines applied both to suspects held by Americans and to those who might have been transferred to other countries.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Senate Intelligence Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to send the nomination of Leon Panetta as CIA Director to the full Senate for confirmation.
If approved, the 70-year-old Panetta would become the oldest person to head the spy agency.
Panetta was an eight term Congressman from central California who chaired the powerful House Budget Committee before moving over to the Clinton White House as the Budget Director and later as the President's Chief of Staff. He left government in 1997 and returned to California where he and his wife created the Leon and Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy, a non-profit foundation.
During his confirmation hearing, Panetta was peppered with questions about the Bush Administration's controversial interrogation, detention and rendition program and President Obama's efforts to change the policy.
Panetta called waterboarding, the interrogation technique which simulates drowning, torture, but he said the intelligence officers who carried it out should not be prosecuted.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Just two days after she criticized President-elect Obama’s pick to head the sometimes-troubled CIA because he is not an intelligence professional, incoming Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein says she will support Leon Panetta because he will “tell truth to power.”
In an interview with CNN, Feinstein said she believes Panetta, a former congressman and Clinton White House chief of staff, will “surround himself with very qualified intelligence professionals in the top positions.” She praised Panetta, whom she’s known for 20 years, as “smart” and “credible.”
“He will, as has been said, tell truth to power. Not what power wants to hear but should here,” Feinstein said. “That’s probably the most fundamental part of all of this. That what many of think happened with the Iraq NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) never happens again.”
Feinstein denied that the short statement she issued Monday, after news of the Obama’s selection was reported by the New York Times, was designed to send a message to the incoming administration that she was angry at not being consulted about the selection.
“That’s nonsense,” she said.
“Yesterday morning the president-elect called, the vice president-elect called. I had a thorough, thoughtful conversation with both of them. They said sorry, we screwed up. I understand that,” she said. “This is his choice and I understand that. He wants to make a clean cut, open a new chapter. And I support that.”
(CNN) - From horse-drawn carriages to bullet proof sedans – presidential transportation has surely changed since William McKinley took the oath of office at the turn of the century. But Barack Obama’s takes it to a whole new level, as his ride may be the most secure, heavily-fortified vehicle in the world. In the latest installment of CNN=Politics Daily, CNN’s Jeanne Meserve takes a look at “The Beast.”
The President-elect wants to spend big to jump-start the economy. His 775 billion dollar stimulus plan involves major tax cuts to individuals and families which can explode the budget deficit and add to a staggering national debt. So, what will the President-elect do when the economy is back on track? CNN’s Christine Romans looks at the ramifications of Obama’s big plan.
Plus: Former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta is Obama’s choice to take over a key intelligence position - director of the CIA. The appointment surprised those in Washington and prominent Democrats are raising questions on the President-elect’s pick. CNN’s Kate Bolduan tells us why.
Finally: The Obamas just moved to Washington, D.C. and even the soon-to-be first family needs to know the city’s hot-spots. CNN’s Jim Acosta helps the Obamas get to know their new neighborhood.
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(CNN) –- Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Senate’s incoming Intelligence committee chair, slammed President-elect Barack Obama’s choice of Leon Panetta as director of the CIA Monday.
“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,” Feinstein said in a statement. “My position has consistently been that I believe the Agency is best-served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time.”
A Feinstein spokesman told CNN’s Dana Bash that the California senator found out about Obama’s pick after her staff showed her a New York Times report.
"The President-elect will now have a chance to make his arguments,” the spokesman said. “Her next move is to listen."
Feinstein is the new chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. While Panetta’s political career - as a congressman, and as President Clinton’s chief of staff - spans three decades, he has little hands-on intelligence experience.
–CNN’s Pam Benson contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Leon Panetta, chief of staff in Bill Clinton's White House, will be President-elect Barack Obama's choice to head the CIA, two Democratic officials told CNN Monday.
The same officials said that retired Adm. Dennis Blair, who formerly headed the Navy's Pacific Command, will be tapped as director of national intelligence.