WASHINGTON -- The Central Intelligence Agency's new director outlined spy policies Wednesday, including an aggressive campaign in Pakistan, that underscored considerable continuity with the Bush administration.
CIA Director Leon Panetta, in his first meeting with reporters, said the agency will continue to carry out drone attacks on militants in Pakistan. He also said that while CIA interrogations will have new limits, President Barack Obama can still use his wartime powers to authorize harsher techniques if necessary.
Among changes under way at the CIA, the agency is now assembling a daily Economic Intelligence Brief to monitor the global economic slowdown's impact on stability. Argentina, Ecuador and Venezuela are facing "serious problems" that threaten their economic stability, Mr. Panetta said.
Mr. Obama moved quickly to set a date for shutting down the Guantanamo Bay prison and to close the CIA's detention network, but the changes to spy operations appear to be on the margins. The main change Mr. Panetta has planned, he said, is to establish "a clear set of ground rules" for interrogations and detainee treatment that are "in line with our ideals."
Mr. Panetta referred to the Predator-drone strikes in Pakistan as "operational efforts,'' to avoid discussing them directly. He said they are "probably the most effective weapon we have to try to disrupt al Qaeda right now.'' Mr. Obama and National Security Adviser James Jones have strongly endorsed their use, he said.
The Obama administration has also shown a reluctance to overturn Bush administration views on certain terrorism-related legal matters. Earlier this month, it backed Bush-era positions that a case against a contractor alleged to have helped with CIA renditions shouldn't go forward because it will reveal "state secrets," and that detainees in Afghanistan don't have the right to challenge their detention in a U.S. court. Coming cases that will provide additional signals include a lawsuit to force the release of Justice Department memos on anti-terrorism policies.
On interrogations, Mr. Panetta said he believes the CIA can be effective if it limits itself to the 19 techniques the military is allowed to use. He said the administration is evaluating the effectiveness of so-called enhanced interrogation tactics such as waterboarding and will make recommendations to the president on what techniques should be allowed. In the interim, only the 19 techniques will be used.
Mr. Panetta clarified his position on renditions, in which the CIA transports detainees to another country. "We are obviously going to seek assurances from that country that their human rights are protected and that they are not mistreated," he said. That position is in line with the stated position of previous administrations, though some detainees who were rendered during the Bush administration say they were tortured.
Mr. Panetta also said he would focus more spy efforts on emerging terrorist hot spots, like Somalia and Yemen, that could become future al Qaeda havens.
Beyond terrorism, Mr. Panetta said the CIA is expanding its analysis of economic conditions around the world. The global economic crisis, he said, "is affecting the stability of the world, and as an intelligence agency, we have to pay attention to that."
The first daily economic brief to the president put together by the CIA went out Wednesday. Mr. Panetta has tapped his top economic analysts to work on it, though he said he may have to bolster his economic team down the line. Republican lawmakers have voiced skepticism about intelligence analysts tackling problems, like economic assessments, that aren't traditionally considered spy work.
Within the agency, Mr. Panetta said he is looking to raise linguistic and cultural fluency. Currently, just 13% of CIA officers and analysts have foreign-language proficiency, he said, adding that his goal is to get the agency on track to reach 100%. He said he will work to improve diversity at the agency, raising the proportion of minorities in the work force to 30% from 22%.
CIA Signals Continuity With Bush Era - WSJ.com