Joe Biden Attacks Bush's Intelligence Policy at Swearing in of New CIA Chief Leon Panetta
US Vice President Joe Biden has delivered a searing rebuke to George W. Bush over his intelligence policies at the
swearing in of new CIA chief Leon Panetta.
By Tim Shipman in Washington
20 Feb 2009
Mr Biden said that the Obama administration would seek the unvarnished
truth from its spies, whether or not their information supported the goals of the government.
President Barack Obama has charged Mr Panetta, a former White House chief of staff, with reviving the morale and effectiveness
of the CIA, both of which have slumped following allegations that American spies were bullied into fixing their intelligence
to support Mr Bush's agenda.
The Vice President's address was greeted with loud cheers by the several hundred CIA employees who gathered for the swearing
in ceremony in the foyer of the Agency's headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
Standing before the wall of 89 stars representing the CIA staff who have died in the line of duty, Mr Biden said: "We expect
you to provide independent analysis, not to engage in group think. We expect you to tell us the facts as you know them wherever
they may lead, not what you think we want to hear."
The former CIA chief George Tenet was accused of failing to emphasise downbeat intelligence assessments of the consequences
of invading Iraq.
Insider accounts of the Bush administration have recounted how the previous president and his deputy Dick Cheney routinely
ignored intelligence that contradicted their belief that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
Mr Panetta, whose selection has caused some controversy because he does not have a background as an intelligence professional,
pledged that under his command the CIA would provide the very best intelligence, not influenced by the politics of the moment,
but real objective information.
James Carville, the Democratic strategist, said: "I can't imagine how anyone wouldn't interpret that as a dig against the
previous administration. Morale at the CIA has been very, very low. They felt like they did not have the kind of autonomy
and freedom to present their own findings."