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On the heels of Obama's announcement of Panetta at CIA, incoming Intelligence Committee chair Feinstein whined:

"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," said Senator Feinstein, who will chair the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in the 111th Congress.

"My position has consistently been that I believe the Agency is best-served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time."

And my position is that the people of California and the nation would be best-served by having a political professional in the Senate and in charge of the Intelligence Committee, but we don't have that, either. To wit, this, from her list of legislative accomplishments for the 110th Congress.

Ensuring FISA is the exclusive means for electronic surveillance: Senator Feinstein authored language to require the federal government to follow the requirements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 ( FISA ) when conducting electronic surveillance of American citizens for foreign intelligence purposes. Signed into law as part of the FISA reform bill on July 10, 2008 ( P.L. 110-261 ).

Of course, anybody with a score card who actually paid attention to the FISA debate knows that putting surveillance authority exclusively in the hands of the court was pretty much the whole point of the original FISA legislation, and that Feinstein is continuing to be either overwhelmingly obtuse or profoundly dishonest on that count; it's her inadequate cover for capitulating to the Bush administration and eroding the Constitution.

Joining with Feinstein in expressing peevish dismay that Obama would dare to choose a nominee and let word of that choice leak before being informed himself. His spokesperson said that Rockefeller "shares Ms. Feinstein’s concerns." Really. That's rich, coming from these two who practically fell over themselves to capitulate to the Bush administration and turn a blind eye to the abuses of that administration, to torture. NOW they decide to get a spine? NOW they decide to resist a president?

On the other hand, David Corn at Mother Jones finds ample evidence that Panetta might just be the best choice for restoring the rule of law at CIA. Panetta wrote this in the Washington Monthly a year ago.

According to the latest polls, two-thirds of the American public believes that torturing suspected terrorists to gain important information is justified in some circumstances. How did we transform from champions of human dignity and individual rights into a nation of armchair torturers? One word: fear.

Fear is blinding, hateful, and vengeful. It makes the end justify the means. And why not? If torture can stop the next terrorist attack, the next suicide bomber, then what's wrong with a little waterboarding or electric shock?

The simple answer is the rule of law....

Those who support torture may believe that we can abuse captives in certain select circumstances and still be true to our values. But that is a false compromise. We either believe in the dignity of the individual, the rule of law, and the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, or we don't. There is no middle ground.

We cannot and we must not use torture under any circumstances.

And at least one former CIA officer thinks Panetta is precisely what's needed at the CIA:

Leading Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee Jay Rockefeller and Dianne Feinstein have already criticized the choice of Panetta, claiming the CIA needs to be led by an experienced intelligence professional. But right now political clout, and the ability to be a strong advocate for the CIA, far outweighs the virtues of being a professional spy, someone who knows the difference between a "live drop" and a "dead drop." A professional from the ranks would be eaten up by Hillary Clinton at State or Bob Gates at Defense. Or end up like Bill Clinton's CIA Director Jim Woolsey, shut out of the White House, ignored and irrelevant.

I would hope that Feinstein and Rockefeller would not let hurt feelings over not being included in the decision-making process on this appointment stand in the way of moving forward with Obama's choice of Panetta. But I won't count on it.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Tue Jan 06, 2009 at 08:00 AM PST.

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