Panetta vows ‘independent’ intelligence as CIA director

February 20th, 2009 - 4:51 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 20 (DPA) Leon Panetta who was sworn in Thursday as head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) pledged that US intelligence assessments would be independent of political influence.
Panetta, a former US congressman, said it was crucial that the CIA provide “honest” reviews of the security threats facing the US, in an implicit swipe at former president George W. Bush’s handling of intelligence during his eight years in office.

“I take this oath with the commitment … that I will provide the very best intelligence, independent judgments not influenced by the politics of the situation, but truly real, objective information that can be presented to the president,” Panetta said at a ceremony in McLean, Virginia.

The Bush administration was criticised for seeking to influence the judgements of the CIA, especially in the run-up to the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

The intelligence community’s own credibility was undermined after weapons of mass destruction could not be found during the post-invasion searches of the country.

The CIA’s influence has also been reduced by the creation of a director of national intelligence (DNI) in 2004, who will coordinate all US intelligence agencies.

Panetta, who was sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden, said he intended to work closely with DNI head Dennis Blair and avoid some of the turf wars that have plagued the intelligence community in the past.

Penetta said he would ensure “that we are not competing with one another, but working as a team to present the best intelligence to the president and others”.

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