California’s Leon Panetta a Good Choice to Head CIA

President Barack
Obama’s appointment of Californian Leon Panetta to direct the CIA is
yet another example of how the Golden State has become the nation’s de
facto go-to source for a new generation of the “best and brightest.” Panetta’s appointment to lead America’s spook central is the kind of change this cloistered, embattled agency needs.

Panetta is not likely to stand for his agents missing, oh, little
events like the collapse of the Soviet Union, the 9/11 attacks and the
failure to actually find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq among
other embarrassing screw-ups. A smart guy who represented California
with distinction in Congress and who served as President Bill Clinton’s
chief of staff, Panetta will demand and get accountability from his
officers and analysts. And if the galactic mistakes continue to occur,
heads will likely — and appropriately — roll in Langley.

I
suspect that Panetta’s most important contribution is that he will
quickly break-up the male and Ivy League-dominated cabal that’s largely
been in charge of the agency since it was brought into being by
President Harry Truman in 1947. This act alone will probably triple the
quality and quantity of the intel we’re getting. And before you go
thinking that this is just another politicallly correct call for
diversity in hiring practices at a federal agency, it really isn’t.

Think about it.

How effective do you think a bunch of Americans in suits who don’t speak the language are going to do in downtown Tehran?

The
great thing about America being a nation of immigrants is that our
population presents a rich, deep and culturally-diverse recruiting pool
for our intelligence agencies to draw from. We can hire and train
smart, savvy patriots who actually look like and talk like the people
we’re spying on. I know, crazy, huh?

We
all know that we live in an increasingly dangerous world. We live in a
world where fanatics plot to destroy us, our way of life and our
democracy with every breath they take.

Panetta, who is set to be confirmed by the Senate early next month,
knows the best way to minimize any further American bloodshed is to
take the fight to the enemy — to defeat him or her on their home
shores, not ours. The only way to do that is to remake the CIA into the
best foreign intelligence service in the world.

Because of all of its recent gaffes, the CIA has become the whipping
boy of commentators (like me) and late-night comedians alike and that’s
a shame. Morale within the organization has to be at an all-time low.
Panetta no doubt knows this and will go about quickly restoring pride
to this important agency. I think it’s fair to say that all Americans
— especially his fellow Californians — wish him and the agency the
best of luck as they go forward.

The
question of how we might determine whether Panetta is successful will
mostly be determined by the lack of anymore 9/11’s or major dropped
balls. In Panetta’s soon-to-be secret world, success is quietly
measured by what doesn’t happen — by what doesn’t make the headlines,
CNN or the network nightly news.

For all of our sakes, here’s to the next four years being very quiet. Very quiet indeed.