On Saturday, the Grand Rapids Press published an Associated Press (AP) article based on the formal announcement by President-Elect Barack Obama on who he has nominated to lead his Intelligence Team.
The story mentions that Obama has chosen retired Admiral Dennis Blair to be the National Intelligence Director and Leon Panetta as Director of the CIA. President-Elect Obama is quoted as saying, “We must adhere to our values as diligently as we protect our safety.” He also said that the two men are “strong managers with the core pragmatism that we need in dangerous times.”
The story goes on to mention that Blair, who was former head of the US Pacific Command “won high marks for countering terrorism in Southeast Asia after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.” Blair is credited with assisting in the campaign to target terrorist groups in Indonesia and the Philippines, but the article never explains why these groups are identified as terrorist organizations.
The AP story does mention at the very end that, “Blair and Panetta are garnering substantial support on Capitol Hill, although concerns exist about each.” Unfortunately, the Grand Rapids Press article never expresses what “concerns exist” about either Blair or Panetta.
According to a January 9 report on Democracy Now, as head of the Pacific Command forces Blair supported the Indonesian military attacks against East Timorese churches and civilians in 1999. Investigative journalist Allan Narin also stated that, “Blair either lied to or willfully misled the US Congress in testimony given before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 3rd, 1999,” about the role of the Indonesian military.
The story also does not mention that Blair sits on the board of a major foreign policy think-tank, the Center for New American Security, and has served on several task forces for the Council on Foreign Relations. Both the Center for New American Security are centrist think-tanks that endorse an imperialist US foreign policy, albeit in gentler terms than often used by the right.
As for Leon Panetta, the Grand Rapids Press article mentions that he was a former Congressman and White House Chief of Staff under Clinton. The article also states that Panetta has no direct intelligence experience, but fails to mention that he was part of the Iraq Study Group, a 10-member group which endorsed a long-term US occupation of Iraq.