Washington President-elect Barack Obama will name former congressman and Clinton White House chief of staff Leon Panetta to head the CIA, tapping a veteran government manager who once oversaw the top-secret U.S. intelligence budget but has no hands-on espionage experience, Democratic officials said on Monday.
If he’s confirmed by the Senate, Panetta would take over an agency that’s leading the fight against terrorism as it struggles to overcome the damage dealt to its credibility and integrity by its Sept. 11 and Iraq intelligence failures and by its use of interrogation methods on suspected terrorists at secret prisons that many experts consider torture.
Panetta’s selection suggests that Obama intends to shake up the agency, which has had little public accounting of its role in detaining top terror suspects and transferring others to regimes known to use torture, a procedure known as extraordinary rendition.
The CIA, which denies subjecting detainees to torture, is part of a 16-agency intelligence community whose annual budget now exceeds $47.5 billion. The agency keeps its own budget and number of employees secret.