Leon Edward Panetta, (born June 28, 1938) is the current Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. An American Democratic politician, lawyer, and professor, Panetta served as President Bill Clinton's White House Chief of Staff from 1994 to 1997 and was a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1977 to 1993. He is the founder and director of the Panetta Institute, served as Distinguished Scholar to Chancellor Charles B. Reed of the California State University System and professor of public policy at Santa Clara University. In January 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Panetta for the post of CIA Director; he was confirmed by the full Senate on February 12, 2009 and assumed the office the next day.
Early life and schooling
Leon Panetta was born in Monterey, California, the son of Carmelina Maria (née Prochilo) and Carmelo Frank Panetta, Italian immigrants from Siderno in Calabria who owned a restaurant in Monterey. He was raised in the Monterey area, and attended Catholic schools St. Carlos Grammar School and Carmel Mission School. He continued his education at Monterey High School, a public school where he became involved in student politics, and was a JSA member. As a junior he was Vice President of the Student Body, and became President of the Student Body as a senior.
In 1956, he entered Santa Clara University, and in 1960 he graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. He also received a Juris Doctor in 1963 from the Santa Clara University School of Law, and soon after began practicing law. In 1964, he joined the United States Army as a Second Lieutenant. There he received the Army Commendation Medal, and was discharged in 1966 as a First Lieutenant.
Panetta started in politics in 1966 as a legislative assistant to Republican Senator Thomas Kuchel, the United States Senate Minority Whip from California, whom Panetta has called "a tremendous role model".
In 1969 he became the assistant to Robert H. Finch, Secretary of the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare under the Nixon administration. Soon thereafter he was appointed Director of the Office for Civil Rights.
Panetta chose to enforce civil rights and equal education laws, even under alleged political pressure not to from then-president Nixon. Robert Mardian said of Panetta: "Doesn't he understand Nixon promised the Southern delegates he would stop enforcing the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts?". Secretary Robert Finch and Assistant Secretary John Veneman refused to fire Panetta, threatening to resign if forced to do so. A few weeks later in 1970, Panetta resigned and left Washington to work as Executive Assistant for John Lindsay, the Republican Mayor of New York City. He wrote about this experience in his 1971 book Bring Us Together: The Nixon Team and the Civil Rights Retreat.
He moved back to Monterey to practice law at Panetta, Thompson & Panetta from 1971 through to 1976.
Panetta switched to the Democratic Party in 1971, because he thought that the Republican Party was moving away from the political center. In 1976, Panetta was elected to the U.S. Congress to represent California's 16th congressional district, unseating incumbent Republican Burt Talcott with 53% of the vote (the 17th district after the 1990 census), and was reelected for nine terms.
During his time in Congress, his work concentrated mostly on budget issues, civil rights, education, health, and environmental issues, particularly preventing oil drilling off the California coast. He wrote the Hunger Prevention Act (Public Law 100-435) of 1988 and the Fair Employment Practices Resolution. He was a major contributor to the effort of establishing the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
His positions included:
Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on the Budget
Chairman of the Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Domestic Marketing, Consumer Relations, and Nutrition
Chairman of the Administration Committee's Subcommittee on Personnel and Police
Chairman of the Task Force on Domestic Hunger created by the U.S. House Select Committee on Hunger
Vice Chairman of the Caucus of Vietnam-Era Veterans in Congress
Member of the President's Commission on Foreign Language and International Studies.
A member of the U.S. House Committee on the Budget from 1979 to 1985—and its chairman from 1989 to 1993—he played a key role in the 1990 Budget Summit.
Though elected to a ninth term, he left the House in 1993 after then-President Bill Clinton selected him to be Director of the United States Office of Management and Budget. He is credited with developing the budget package that would eventually result in the balanced budget of 1998. On July 17, 1994, he was appointed White House Chief of Staff by Clinton, a position he held until January 20, 1997. He was an important negotiator of the 1996 budget, which was another important step towards balancing the budget.
Nomination as CIA Director
Panetta (right) meets with National Security Advisor Anthony Lake and President Clinton in 1994.
President Barack Obama nominated him to the post of Director of the Central Intelligence Agency on January 5, 2009.
After his selection, journalists and politicians raised concerns about his lack of intelligence experience.
David Ignatius, a reporter, said that Panetta did have tangential exposure to intelligence operations as Director of the OMB and as Chief of Staff for President Clinton, where he "sat in on the daily intelligence briefings as chief of staff, and he reviewed the nation's most secret intelligence-collection and covert-action programs in his previous post as director of the Office of Management and Budget." Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, wasn't happy with the Leon Panetta selection:
“I was not informed about the selection of Leon Panetta to be the CIA Director. I know nothing about this, other than what I’ve read. My position has consistently been that I believe the Agency is best-served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time.”
On February 12, 2009, Panetta was confirmed in the full Senate by voice vote.
Director of the CIA
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Message from the Director: Interrogation Policy and Contracts
On February 19, 2009, Leon Panetta was sworn in as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency by Vice President Joe Biden before an audience of CIA employees. Panetta reportedly received a "rock star welcome" from his new subordinates.
In March 2009, Panetta visited India, a crucial ally in the war on terrorism, to discuss a host of issues including common strategy on dealing with Islamic extremism and Taliban. This was his first international visit since he assumed office.
President Barack Obama authorized the continuation of the CIA's paramilitary operations against Al-Qa'ida in Pakistan. Director Panetta has expressed great support for Special Activities Division's (SAD) Special Operations Group (SOG) operations. He stated that SAD/SOG's efforts in Pakistan have been "the most effective weapon against senior Al-Qaeda leadership".These attacks have increased significantly under President Obama, with as many as 50 suspected Al-Qaeda militants being killed in the month of May 2009 alone.
Panetta and his wife founded the Leon & Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy' in December 1998, where they serve as the Institute's directors. The Institute is located at California State University, Monterey Bay. Panetta was instrumental in creating CSU Monterey Bay by converting Fort Ord, where he was chief of operations and planning of the intelligence section when he was in the army, into the university. Panetta served as Distinguished Scholar to the Chancellor of California State University and as Presidential Professor at Santa Clara University. He was urged to consider running for Governor of California during the recall election in 2003 but declined in part because of the short time available to raise money.
Panetta has long been an advocate for the health of the world's oceans. As a member of Congress from California’s 16th District, he wrote numerous successful acts of Congress to protect the California coast, including legislation creating the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. In 2003, Panetta was named chairman and commissioner of the Pew Oceans Commission, which in 2005 combined with the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy to establish the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative. Panetta now co-chairs the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative with Admiral James D. Watkins, U.S. Navy (Ret.). Panetta continues to pursue his commitment to ocean and marine life issues, serving as a resource for legislators and the media, advocating for ocean reform on behalf of the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative as well as other ocean organizations, including the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
In 2006 he was part of the Iraq Study Group, also known as the Baker Commission.
In 2009 Panetta delivered the commencement speech to the graduating class at The University of Maryland at College Park.
Joint Ocean Commission Initiative
Commissioner and Co-Chair
Pew Oceans Commission
Bread for the World
Board of Directors
National Marine Sanctuary Foundation
Member of the Board of Directors
National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management
Board of Directors, 2004–2009
New York Stock Exchange
Co-chairman of the Corporate Accountability and Listing Standards Committee
Board of Directors since 1997
Close Up Foundation
Board of Directors, Member since 1999
Connetics Investor Relations
Board of Directors since March 2000
Co-chairman of the Corporate Accountability and Listing Standards Committee
Co-chairman of the Corporate Credibility Advisory practice
Member of the International Advisory Board
Junior Statesmen Foundation Inc.
Trustee since 2004
Public Policy Institute of California
Board of Directors since 2007
In June 2002 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops put him on their National Review Board which was created to look into the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal. This created controversy because of Panetta's pro-choice stands on abortion and other views seen as conflicting with those of the Church.
Panetta married Sylvia Marie Varni, who administered his home district offices during his terms in Congress.
Currently, he lives on his family's twelve acre (49,000 m²) walnut farm in Carmel Valley, California with his wife. They have three grown sons: Christopher, Carmelo, and James, and five grandchildren
1969 — Abraham Lincoln Award, National Education Association
1984 — A. Philip Randolph Award
1988 — Golden Plow Award, American Farm Bureau Federation
1991 — President's Award, American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages
1991 — Coastal and Ocean Management Award, Coastal Zone Foundation
1993 — Peter Burnett Award for Distinguished Public Service
1995 — Distinguished Public Service Medal, Center for the Study of the Presidency
1997 — Special Achievement Award for Public Service, National Italian American Foundation
2001 — John H. Chafee Coastal Stewardship Award, Coastal America
2002 — Law Alumni Special Achievement Award, Santa Clara University School of Law Alumni Association
2003 — Julius A. Stratton "Champion of the Coast" Award for Coastal Leadership
2005 - Received an honorary Doctorate from University of Wisconsin - Parkside
2005 — Received an honorary Doctorate of Public Service from Northeastern University
2006 — Paul Peck Award