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)

    Not a good career move on the part of Feinstein complaining to the media.

    She could spend the next 4 years in the equivalent of the Senate's woodshed.

    January 5, 2009 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  2. Matt, Chico, CA

    Who cares what Dianne Feinstein thinks? The only way she came to power was when she BECAME (not elected) Mayor of SF (which has completely lost touch with reality) after Harvey Milk and George Moscone were killed. She is irrelevant.

    January 5, 2009 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  3. janine

    I honestly could care less what Feinstein thinks about Obama's nominations. If she knows everything, then she should have ran for President. I can't stand back seat drivers.

    January 5, 2009 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  4. Georgia Peach

    This is the first questionable appointment in my eyes. A man who was chief of staff to lead one of the most intriquite intelligence organization of this country.
    Someone mentioned "why would someone need to have experience in intelligence? Would you choose waste management to lead your medical team. Maybe as a analyst coming in but to lead this agency? Donovan the creator of the CIA would turn over in his grave. There are many fine individuals who have served the agency with valor and understanding of the world of intell. It is a total different environment than the corporate or political environment.
    Diane Feinstein as the head of the intelligence Committee has a right to question this appointment, it is her job. I voted for Pres. Obama as a Republican but may I remind the folks here we did not vote for a King or and Emporer who can deal freely, we still have congress and the senate in place for checks and balances. This is nothing against Obama but everyone can make a bad decision and no one is immune to it. He needed to get together with some of the folks on the hill especially on this appointment besides the boys from Chicago and his transition team. And all the age discriminatory comments, some day you all will be "old hacks too".

    January 5, 2009 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  5. FreeNLovIt

    To Marc

    Of course Hillary won, but I'm glad Obama is the Prez. He is the better of the three candidates. He'll manage and they'll work for him.

    Genius is eternal patience – Michelangelo

    January 5, 2009 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  6. CNN This Was Not a Slam

    Feinstein was a little miffed, but a "Slam". Do you people read your own copy?

    January 5, 2009 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  7. Patty in the CA mountains

    I would think ego and pride would take a back seat to pressing issues at this time....Ms Feinstein needs to be cooperative rather than combative....her "I just heard of this....he didn't ask me" sounds petty and childish....I would rather not have someone in that seat that is a "company" man right now....bring in new blood like Paneta that doesn't already have established loyalties and ties to those that went before him and got us into this mess. Maybe Ms Feinstein can help Paneta "learn the ropes"....oh wait, she's the NEW head of this committee....

    January 5, 2009 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  8. Puff

    Oh boy, change we can believe in!!! All you hope dopers who voted this clown into office will rue the day I am sure of that. Head of the CIA? Give me a break. What a joke this guy is turning out to be. Empty suit, racist, radical, un-american. Yeah, change we can believe in.

    January 5, 2009 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  9. Mike

    This is another poor pick by Obama.
    Another person who does not have the know-how to be in position that he/she is appointed for.

    Thank goodness Gov. Bill Richardson is outta here! There are a couple more than should follow him out the door as soon as possible..........

    January 5, 2009 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  10. Marc PDX

    Well, this is exactly why a lot of us voted against Obama, despite his vast experience and extensive connections in Washington and throughout the world. Face it, he has no experience. Inside a good looking, well spoken man, is the same naive guy who never realized Rev. Wright was a racist. Who didn't have the acumen to see a problem (politically) with having friends like Ayers and Rezko. I know, I know... those topics are off limits. It's a buzz kill for the hope & change crowd. But now he has been elected and this part doesn't come on a script. Sad that we live in an age where popular culture guides our politics. We have declined a great deal over the last 50 years. But, it's your world and welcome to it.

    January 5, 2009 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  11. California Gold

    Well said Melissa B ~ California. This article shows a snarky side of Ms. Feinstein that is unattractive. She is still a very powerful politician.

    January 5, 2009 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |

    Panetta wasn't put in to necessarily know intelligence, but more to clean up the problems w/n the organization. They've had so many mistakes there that they need an outstanding administrator!!!

    January 5, 2009 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  13. Karen - Missouri

    Isn't this Obama's decision to make? Who made Feinstein queen?

    January 5, 2009 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  14. Lynn in NM

    Wow!! Feinstein disagrees with Obama?? Obama is a Democrat. What's the problem??? I can see it if she was a Republican, but come on! He hasn't even taken office yet and there is a break in the ranks??? Not good.

    January 5, 2009 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  15. BL

    Hooray Barbara Campbell! You say it so well. Let's stand behind our President Elect and let him demonstrate his abilities.

    January 5, 2009 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  16. MorningStar

    Ya ya old lady, stop crying.

    January 5, 2009 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |

    One more thing ...Diane needs to make her comments to the President Elect first rather than having a press conference. If she wants to pick, she should run for President some day, but that will never happen. Maybe she thought he should have chosen her!!! LOL

    January 5, 2009 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  18. Howard Roark

    A transition team loaded with lobbyists...a cabinet already loaded with entrenched Washington politicians...and now Leon Panetta...yep, change you can believe in!

    January 5, 2009 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  19. joshua

    Yeah, ya know is it really too much to ask to have someone with:

    A. experience in the field they will be in charge of, and

    B. someone that is in no way affiliated with Bill Clinton?

    I mean really, who is going to be the next SOC candidate, Cindy Sheehan? Is he using a blindfold and a dartboard? At least Mike Brown had experience with something, even if it was raising horses.

    January 5, 2009 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  20. geraldine

    Why is the story (and everyone's comments) about Feinstein's reaction to not being told, and not Panetta's obvious lack of qualifcation for this job? He has not one iota of experience in intelligence or defense, yet he's been nominated to be the country's lead spy. Doesn't anyone else find this strange or concerning? Whether he's a good guy or not, and whether Diane Feinstein approves or not, the selection is borderline dereliction of duty on Obama's part.

    ahh well – who needs intelligence when you've got Obama to out-speech our enemies?

    January 5, 2009 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  21. Juan Grain

    Who cares what she thinks, who is she anyway the maid?

    January 5, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  22. Steve

    Uhhh...Diane? If you check the Constitution, the president does not work for Congress. He is perfectly within his rights to select whomever he wants for Director of CIA. These snarky comments from you only show you as the self-aggrandizing career hack that you are. If you can't do something positive, then step out of the way. Americans in general are tired of this kind of stuff.

    January 5, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  23. Kevin B

    Mike in Syracuse- Did you ever think that the reason for the appointment of Panetta is to avoid exactly what happened in the Bush adminstration . "bad intellegence"

    Panetta is known as an competent, thoughtful and honest administrator. He will likely be tasked with recalibrating a completely demoralized and misused CIA.

    There are many precedents of DIA directors without security background (see HW Bush)

    January 5, 2009 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  24. r sisk, nevada

    I would hardly call this a SLAM. She disagrees with Obama's selection. Big Deal.

    January 5, 2009 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  25. Nancy

    Look Lady! Intelligence Professionals are just people that are really smart and up to date on current events. That doesn't mean an intelligence professional HAS to be in charge of the CIA – the RIGHT person has to be in charge of the CIA. And noone has to let you know anything – Especially the Prez!

    January 5, 2009 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
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