Barack Obama has chosen former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta to head the CIA or Central Intelligence Agency. Read his biography below, see photos and watch a video.




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Some say choosing Leon Panetta as head of the CIA, a person with no intelligence experience, is bringing fresh eyes and credibility to an agency battered by controversy over its conduct of the War on Terrorism. Others say choosing Bill Clinton’s WH Chief of Staff is just additional evidence of a 3rd Clinton term and less hope and change. While still others are just snippy about the selection!

“Here is a guy who will be very credible with the Democrats in Congress and here’s someone who brings not only an outsider’s perspective but knows how the White House works,” said James Lewis, an intelligence expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“He knows what presidents want and need. That’s a plus,” he said.

Really? Panetta was former president Bill Clinton’s chief of staff from 1994 to 1997, following a 16-year career as a lawmaker from California. His expertise in the House of Represenatives and in the Clinton administration was in budgets and finance.

The One has also chosen Dennis Blair as his Director of National Intelligence. Blair, a retired admiral, had long been rumored for the post, but the announcement had been delayed, reportedly because of the extended time it took for Obama to choose Panetta to head CIA.

If he’s confirmed, Leon Panetta will replace Air Force General Michael Hayden, who has led the CIA since 2006.

Leon Panetta Biography

Leon Edward Panetta was born June 28, 1938 in Monterey, California so his age is 70. He has been a congressman, a Clinton White House Chief of Staff, a law professor, and is the founder and director of the Panetta Institute.

Leon is the son of Italian immigrants. He was raised in the Monterey area, and attended Catholic schools. His parents owned a restaurant. As a junior in high school, he was Vice President of the Student Body, and became President of the Student Body as a senior.

He attended 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 Law School, 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.

Leon Panetta started 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. He also worked as an 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.

Yes folks, Leon Panetta started out as a Republican!

After working for Mayor Lindsay, he moved back to Monterey to practice law at Panetta, Thompson & Panetta from 1971 through to 1976. Leon switched to the Democratic Party in 1971, because he thought that the Republican Party was moving away from the political center, and it was working against Civil Rights legislation. In 1976, Panetta was elected to the U.S. Congress 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.

He left Congress in 1993 when Bill Clinton selected him to be Director of the United States Office of Management and Budget. In 1994, he was appointed White House Chief of Staff by Clinton, a position he held until January 20, 1997.

Leon 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.

Currently, Leon serves as Distinguished Scholar to the Chancellor of California State University and as Presidential Professor at University of California, Santa Cruz’s Politics department, with both universities allowing him to teach. He also teaches once a year at Santa Clara University.

Leon and his wife Sylvia live on a 12-acre walnut farm in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. They have three grown sons: Christopher, Carmelo, and James, and five grandchildren whom they love dearly.




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