President-elect Barack Obama was asked about his plans to pick Leon Panetta to be Director of the CIA during a meeting with his economic team this afternoon.
REPORTER: Some are questioning Leon Panetta’s lack of intelligence — lack of experience on intelligence matters. Sorry about that. I know this is tricky for you since you haven’t announced him yet but what does he bring to the table for you.
OBAMA: Well, as you noted, I haven’t made a formal announcement about my intelligence team. That may be him calling now — finding out where it’s at. I have the utmost respect for Leon Panetta. I think that he’s one of the finest public servants that we’ve had. He brings extraordinary management skills, great political savvy, an impeccable record of integrity. as chief of staff, he’s somebody who to the president he’s somebody who was fully versed in international affairs, crisis management, and had to evaluate intelligence consistently on a day-to-day basis. Having said all that, I have not made an announcement. When we make the announcement, I think what people will see is that we are putting together a top notch intelligence team that is not only going to assure that I get the best possible intelligence — unvarnished — that the intelligence community is no longer geared toward telling the president what they think the president wants to hear but instead are going to be delivering the information that the president needs to make critical decisions to keep the American people safe. I think what you’re also going to see is a team that is committed to breaking with some of the past practices and concerns that have, I think, tarnished the image of the agencies and intelligence agencies and U.S. foreign policy. Last point I will make on this is that there are outstanding intelligence professionals in the CIA, DNI and others and I have the utmost regard for the work that they’ve done and we are committed to making sure that this is a team effort that’s not looking backwards but is looking forward to figure out how we’re going to serve the American people best.
This video is from MSNBC’s News Live, broadcast Jan. 6, 2008.