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Panetta Hearing: Bond’s Last Licks — Sort Of

The hearing is wrapping up. Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) laments that some of the Republican senators have left “thinking they wouldn’t get a chance to ask questions.” He wants another bite of the apple on CIA Director-Designate Leon Panetta’s rendition history. “Were you fully advised of the extraordinary renditions that went on” in the Clinton administration?

Renditions yes, “extraordinary renditions,” no, said Panetta. Usually when “moving someone outside the country for prosecution.” Panetta clarifies that his comments that extraordinary rendition and torture occurred during the Bush administration were based on the overwhelming public record, including “[Former CIA Director] Mike Hayden’s acknowledgment” that people were waterboarded, not specific CIA confessions. “It is clear there were black sites, it is clear individuals were brought there … clearly steps were taken that prompted this president to say they will not be taken anymore.” Bond just wants to say the Clinton administration is as dirty as the Bush administration.

Were there renditions that resulted in torture, either during the Clinton or Bush administrations? “I can neither affirm nor deny … my understanding there were renditions to countries that engage in behavior from what I’ve seen in the press. … I have no official information from within that those kinds of rendition took place.” Bond says that this is different from a “blanket statement” on renditions. Happy now? “I suspect that. .. we have rendered individuals to other countries that use techniques to get information … that violate our own standards,” Panetta said, arms folded across his chest.

And — following extra lines of questioning about Saudi programs to rehabilitate incarcerated jihadists, Hamas, and institutional challenges with human intelligence — we’re out for today. Bond didn’t come out and oppose Panetta’s nomination, but he insisted on having the hearing reconvene tomorrow morning for additional questioning, probably along these lines.

Politically, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chair of the Senate intelligence committee, looks halfway canny for scheduling this hearing so late in the day. Panetta has emerged from it with no real scratches on him — pretty amazing, considering that he stepped into this nomination to the immediate objections of Feinstein. But who knows if Bond and his colleague, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) — who apparently has questions for Panetta as well — will have more in their arsenal tomorrow.

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