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So What is it the GOP Still Wants to Ask Panetta?

Although Leon Panetta hasn’t had so much as a single senator come out against his nomination to become CIA director, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will reconvene at 10 a.m. at the request of Vice Chairman Kit Bond (R-Mo.), who said yesterday that both he and Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) have additional questions for Panetta. And fair enough: Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) scheduled Panetta’s hearings yesterday at an unorthodox mid-afternoon hour, and announced halfway through the first round of questioning for an important nominee that they’d need to wrap things up around 4:30 p.m. for a series of stimulus votes. But it remains to be seen whether Bond’s questions will be in good faith.

Bond spent much of his time at the hearing yesterday trying to bait Panetta into walking back President Obama’s bans on torture and getting Panetta to say that the Clinton administration committed as many human rights abuses as the Bush administration. During his final series of questions, Bond succeeded in getting Panetta to admit he hadn’t seen with his own eyes people getting tortured as the result of extraordinary rendition, and had only read about how the process resulted in torture from the numerous studies, first-person accounts and books exploring it. Bond crowed that Panetta wasn’t, in fact, issuing a “blanket statement” declaring extraordinary rendition — the process by which the CIA kidnaps a terrorism suspect and gives them over to another security service, usually one skilled in the arts of torture — to result in 100 percent guaranteed USDA-certified torture.

Now check out the questions Bond asked Panetta to answer before the hearing. They’re hosted on the committee’s Web page devoted to yesterday’s hearing. All of them have to do with fees Panetta earned on the lecture circuit. (The source for the first question is an article in something called the “Huffington Riposte,” LOL.) Here’s a sample. All answers are for some reason written in the third person:

Has EduCap or the Academy of Achievement donated any funds to the Leon and Sylvia Panetta Institute in the previous 4 years, including 2008?

To the best of his recollection, the only donations by the Reynolds-affiliated entities were the ones previously disclosed to the Committee. He does not recall any donations from EduCap or Academy of Achievement. He does not recall any donations for less than $5,000 from these entities. There were not donations from any Reynolds-affiliated entities in 2008. (Note: He is relying on his recollection on these questions because the institute does not maintain an easily-assembled list of donations below the $5,000 level, per our previous discussions with Committee staff.)

If the hearing this morning continues down this road, it’s sure to get at the very heart of what it takes to lead the intelligence community at a time of war.

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