In addition to concerns about the CIA's reputation and its legal exposure, other White House insiders say Panetta has been frustrated by what he perceives to be less of a role than he was promised in the administration's intelligence structure. Panetta has reportedly chafed at reporting through the director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, according to the senior adviser who said Blair is equally unhappy with Panetta.
"Leon will be leaving," predicted a former top U.S. intelligence official, citing the conflict with Blair. The former official said Panetta is also "uncomfortable" with some of the operations being carried out by the CIA that he did not know about until he took the job."
Indeed. With Holder appointing a prosecutor to investigate the CIA and the announcement of a new unit in charge of interrogations, who could blame Panetta? What's the point of putting your own guy in charge of the CIA if you're just going to go around him anyway? It'll be interesting to see how long Mr. Panetta sticks around and what stories will come out about the tensions between him and the White House along the way.
Here is a statement Panetta issued to the agency today (in response to the disclosure of an Inspector General report from 2004):
"I make no judgments on the accuracy of the 2004 IG report or the various views expressed about it. Nor am I eager to enter the debate, already politicized, over the ultimate utility of the Agency's past detention and interrogation effort. But this much is clear: The CIA obtained intelligence from high-value detainees when inside information on al-Qa'ida was in short supply. Whether this was the only way to obtain that information will remain a legitimate area of dispute, with Americans holding a range of views on the methods used. The CIA requested and received legal guidance and referred allegations of abuse to the Department of Justice. President Obama has established new policies for interrogation."