Amazing What A Phone Call Can Accomplish

January 07, 2009 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

Personally, I hate using the phone and look forward to the day when text-based communications replace phone calls as a matter of course. But last night aspiring CIA director Leon Panetta called Sen. Dianne Feinstein — she called him back, so there was a bit of phone tag — and secured the support of the new Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman.

I wondered when the news broke if Steve Kappes had basically saved Panetta’s nomination. Phil LaVelle, Feinstein’s spokesman, said simply that Panetta gave Feinstein “the very clear impression that if confirmed, he would surround himself with intelligence professionals.” Unclear on Kappes. Unclear on whether that means Panetta will keep current CIA Director Michael Hayden’s CIA basically in place, or if he’ll bring different professionals into the job. My guess is that Panetta hasn’t really sorted that out yet — his nomination hasn’t even been officially announced yet, after all — but all directors want their people in place. LaVelle stressed that the conversation was “warm [and] friendly,” indicating strongly that Feinstein wants to turn the page on this episode. As reported, pending the committee’s due diligence, her intention is to support Panetta now.

Last thing for now, and my apologies in advance for musing on a headache-worthy issue, but I wonder what this means for investigating the CIA on torture and rendition and detentions now that Panetta has had to basically swear he’ll surround himself with career CIA people. It’s hardly the case that the CIA is a den of torturers and lawbreakers, as I keep writing. But it’s worth considering whether torture-opponent Panetta’s prospective arrival at CIA is supposed to be all the closure we get on this rather dark episode in American history.