January 5th, 2009
05:13 PM ET
8 years ago

Feinstein slams Obama CIA head pick

Sen. Dianne Feinstein believes the CIA is best-served by having an intelligence professional in charge.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein believes the CIA is best-served by having an intelligence professional in charge.

(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.

soundoff (244 Responses)
  1. barbara campbell

    President-elect Obama demonstrated his judgment, intelligence, and political skills in running the best election campaign in history, defeating the Clinton machine and rising above everything the Republicans threw at him (or made up about him).

    He's now applying his intelligence and skills, in consultation with knowledgeable advisers, to the decisions he has to make. Everyone from Dianne Feinstein to ignorant bloggers are second-guessing his decisions, thinking they know better, before he's even taken office.

    Rather than bicker over every move Obama makes, let's give him our support at this critical time in history and wait to see how he and his staff go about running the country.

    I suspect that most of the critical comments on these blogs originate with Republican talking points or Republican hostility toward Democrats in general. We have become a very angry, divided country over the last eight years.

    January 5, 2009 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  2. Belle

    Geez...usually HISTORY dictates whether a president is great or not...NOT bloggers.

    I concur that Leon Panetta, although I like him personally, doesn't have the know how to be CIA Chief.

    What a time for inexperience....with all of his good picks, this one is not only surprising, but worrisome.

    January 5, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  3. cabianni

    Democrats eviscerated the CIA and the result was 9-11. So let's appoint a political operative who knows nothing about the Intelligence world to head the CIA.

    January 5, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  4. norb

    Still mad that her choice( Hillary) didn't win. Why would anyone make her head of the intelligence committee anyway?

    January 5, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  5. Alan

    And - let's see. Bush made ALL the right cabinet choices, right? Remember him? The guy who's STILL in office and STILL in charge and STILL responsible for all things that happen (i.e. "the buck stops here - unless I'm a Republican"). It seems Bush had to REPLACE WRONG CHOICES several times during the past 8 years. Too many to count. Those who weren't replaced mucked up so badly they needed to be replaced.

    Give Obama a chance. Stop being the armchair quarterbacks it seems ALL of you think you are. As one brilliant poster said here - if you know so much, why didn't you run for president? You might have gotten 2 or 3 votes - if your relatives are allowed to vote.

    January 5, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  6. Mike, Syracuse NY

    Democratic Voter, what's wrong with transparency? Isn't that what the Obameister wanted. Well, he got it!

    January 5, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  7. Charles Atlanta

    Good. Bring back the check and balance between these two branches. We missed that during the Bush administration..

    January 5, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  8. FreeNLovIt

    Oh dear, Panetta is fine for the position. We need someone who can manage and coordinate these departments. Panetta will do a great job. Obama has three strong KNOTS backing him up (Gates, Jones and Clinton) already. There is nothing to fear. He cant be any WORSE than that other previous director that had gottena MEDAL from Bush.

    January 5, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  9. Jeff Brown

    This is coming from the woman who rolled over time and again for Bush... Go away lady!

    January 5, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  10. Bob

    Welcome back to the Clinton Administration! No fooling around with cigars Mr. Obama

    January 5, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  11. Hammer

    Please, you must not question the GREAT ONE.

    January 5, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  12. Robin

    I agree with Feinstein. We are in precarius times. We can't have someone "making it up as he goes". This was a poor choice for the head of the CIA.

    Besides, terrorists first bombed the World Trade Center in 1993. Clinton's watch. They failed and spent the next 8 years perfecting the next attack, which sadly, went off without a hitch. These people did not just wake up on 9/11/01 and say, "Let's go hijack some planes."

    I for one would feel alot safer with another choice in the CIA who will keep us all safe from future attacks.

    Go ahead Proud American. Call me an Idiot.

    January 5, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  13. a southern bell






    January 5, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  14. Dublin Joe

    Difi just wants someone she and her husband know in that position so they can funnel more intel money into her retirement account.

    Leon Panetta is a decent and honourable man, exactly what the CIA needs.

    January 5, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  15. FreeNLovIt

    Obama just needs someone to collect information for him. The CIA Director does not have the final say. It's Obama.

    January 5, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  16. Dublin Joe

    Or.. in the words of Jerry Seinfeld... the very fact that you're opposed to this makes me think it's a good idea.

    January 5, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  17. Paul in Austin

    It is bizarre to watch PE Obama filling the cabinet by shoehorning Clinton retreads into positions for they are poorly suited. These clearly are not the best that can be had and it just emphasizes that these appointments are being made as political horse trading and payback. I had hoped for a merit based approach, but those hopes are fading fast. We will all suffer for this continuation of politics as usual.

    January 5, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  18. Vicki5

    Who is she (or who does she think she is) to demand that she know in advance and approve of an appointment?

    January 5, 2009 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  19. Matt

    @ Van

    Not long enough...but thankfully, he gets to try for another 4 as well.

    January 5, 2009 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  20. John, Brooklyn, New York

    Go Senator Feinsten!

    Barack Obama promised to reach across the aisle to make important decisions. Surprise, surprise. So far he's only demonstrated that he willing to across the aisle to appease Republicans while giving the back of his hand to his own party (as in Feinstein) or throwing them under the proverbial bus (as in the GLBT community and the selection of Rick Warren to participate in the inauguration).

    Those who are criticizing Feinstein should check their constiution. Panetta must be approved by the Senate – and, along the way, by the Feinstein's Intelligence Committee.

    January 5, 2009 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  21. Otis

    Is this the change that was voted for? Is this the reaching across party lines we voted for? Even Dems are posting here in a very divisive way further demonstrating it is D v R. Well done, President Clinton...I mean Obama. Blind loyalty yet again.

    January 5, 2009 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  22. mcd

    In response to some posts here – the senate must approve cabinet level appointments as well as certain agency appointments – this is to balance the power between the Legislative and Executive branch – it is scary how people feel qualified to dismiss what Senator Feinstein states when she is only doing her job – without senate approval no high ranking cabinet, etc. appointment can be made – It is even scarier how little so many Obama supporters know about how our founding father's set up our three branch system of government and how the "process" actually works

    January 5, 2009 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  23. change in America

    Who care what Feinstein say she need to get kick out door feinstein need to be in the unemployment line who do she think she is.

    January 5, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  24. Sidney P.

    Why can't everyone just chill and give Obama and his cabinet picks a little time. I mean after all some of you idots gave Bush a second term.....so shut up!!!!!!

    January 5, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  25. CLINTON in 2016

    Respect isn't handed out. It's earned. And I think with her lifetime of experience, she has every right to chastise the incoming President elect. His total lack of respect for her, is evidenced in his lack of communication.

    David Axelrod can run your campaign, but now you've got to run your administration.

    When will he be vetted?

    Giving pretty, rhetorical speeches on race will earn my attention...but not my respect.

    You're no messiah.

    January 5, 2009 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
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