What Did Leon Panetta Know About Rendition And When Did He Know It?

Thus far, defenders of Director-designate of Central Intelligence Leon Panetta make the following points in defense of the proposition that he would make a good DCI:

  1. In response to arguments that Panetta is not experienced, Panettaphiles tell us that because of his experience as a consumer of intelligence–both as a member of the Iraq Study Group and as Chief of Staff to Bill Clinton–Panetta actually has lots of intelligence experience and would, in fact, be super-awesome as DCI. In addition, as Chief of Staff, we are told that Panetta played a key role in shaping intelligence policies.
  2. Panetta is against torture, rendition and other bad stuff.

Okay. But here’s the thing: If you believe Panettaphile Argument No. 1, then you really have to be concerned about the viability of Panettaphile Argument No. 2.

What do I mean? Well, in her book, The Dark Side, Jane Mayer pointed out that rendition policies began not during the Bush Administration, but rather, during the Clinton Administration. As Mayer writes, in 1995, the Clinton Administration proposed to the government of Hosni Mubarak that Egypt be a rendition destination, a proposal that the Egyptians accepted (pp. 112-113). Eventually, renditions became routine and a “Rendition Branch” was added to the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center and President Clinton signed a directive that authorized “Apprehension, Extradition, Rendition and Prosecution” of terrorist suspects in 1998 (p. 114). Other countries, in addition to Egypt, were used as rendition destinations but Egypt remained the most popular destination.

Leon Panetta was Chief of Staff from 1994-1997, according to Wikipedia.

As I see it, only one of three scenarios is possible:

  1. Leon Panetta, as Chief of Staff, was involved in the decision to craft the rendition program, and the program was crafted with his approval.
  2. Leon Panetta, as Chief of Staff, was involved in the decision to craft the rendition program, and the program was crafted over his objections. However, there is no evidence whatsoever that Panetta left the position of Chief of Staff in protest over the rendition policy (Wikipedia states that his resignation took effect on January 20, 1997, which is the date Bill Clinton was sworn in for his second term, likely demonstrating that Panetta just picked the beginning of the second term to leave and did not leave over any policy difference).
  3. Leon Panetta, as Chief of Staff, was entirely out of the loop when it came to crafting the rendition program, thus opening the door to questions over whether Panetta was really as involved in intelligence matters as Panettaphiles claim that he was. I mean, if one is the Chief of Staff to the President and one does not take an active role in helping shape the policies by which terrorists like the ones in al Qaeda are captured and interrogated, one is pretty darned ineffective and not a major player, nyet?

So I ask: What did Leon Panetta know about rendition and when did he know it? Will he come forward and give answers to those questions? And hey, what about all of those pundits who claim that the incoming Administration will forswear torture and other cruel and inhuman interrogation activities. Are they the least bit concerned over whether the DCI-designate meets up to their purported standards? And will they to and write about their concerns in public?

It would be dramatically hypocritical if they didn’t, wouldn’t it?