Friday, February 11, 2011

cia director spoke too soon...,


Video - James David Manning calls for Panetta's firing.

WaPo | CIA Director Leon Panetta helped touch off an avalanche of erroneous expectations Thursday when he testified that there was a "strong likelihood" that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would step down by the end of the day.

Within minutes, senior aides to Panetta sought to tamp down the impact, saying he was merely referring to media reports. But by then, the comments had ricocheted around the Internet, underscoring U.S. confusion about events unfolding in Egypt, as well as the perils of publicly weighing in on such developments while serving as director of CIA.

The agency has been under pressure to help President Obama and other policymakers navigate the crisis in Egypt, even though its outcome is largely contingent on the internal deliberations of one man.

Panetta acknowledged the daunting aspect of that assignment in testimony before the House intelligence committee, saying that for spy services, "our biggest problem is always: How do we get into the head of somebody?"

Even within Egypt's government, there has been confusion about Mubarak's intentions. His defiant speech Thursday evening, in which he vowed to stay in office until elections are held in September, when his term ends, came after Egyptian military officials had signaled Mubarak's imminent departure earlier in the day.

Panetta, who had little intelligence experience before taking the CIA job two years ago, has been praised for his skill in leading a notoriously temperamental agency, and for handling public controversies with a deft touch.

His testimony Thursday as part of an annual hearing on national security threats, which coincided with new chaos in Cairo, seemed to mark a rare misstep.

Unlike other senior intelligence officials who were more circumspect in their comments on Egypt, Panetta did not hesitate in offering assessments of the rapidly shifting events.