CIA Director Leon Panetta and the Westminster Best Dog in Show

Panetta said he may be the oldest to take charge of the CIA but he's the best in show.

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By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers

Leon Panetta today became the 19th director of the CIA. During a swearing in ceremony for the oldest-ever director, he noted that it's been a good week for the elderly. To a small group of CIA biggies in his seventh-floor office, the 70-year-old Panetta got a load of laughs when he said: "I noticed in the press that they said I'm the oldest director to take charge of the CIA. But I would remind you that the 'Best Dog in Show' this year at the annual Westminster Kennel Club show was a dog that was 10 years old. So, I come here as the best dog in show." He also issued a letter, printed below, to staffers in which he pledged to keep the agency independent of bias.

A Message from Director Panetta

With great pride and honor, I took the oath of office today to become Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Pride because it gives me another opportunity to serve the nation. Honor because I will lead a great organization that is on the front line of preserving our national security.

When President Obama asked if I would accept this assignment, he said he wanted someone he could trust, who was independent, and who would call them as he sees them. Throughout my 40-year career in government, I have made it a point to speak honestly to my colleagues, my coworkers, my constituents, and my President. I hope that we can speak honestly to each other and to those we serve.

At its best, intelligence gives our government the clearest possible picture of the world as it is. At its heart, intelligence is the solid base on which our country acts to build the world as it should be. It is a profession of risk, of courage, and of integrity. It is a calling for the dedicated, those who find reward not in public acclaim, but in silent duty.

CIA holds a special place in American intelligence. Free of policy bias, it reports, analyzes, and informs. Its officers tackle the toughest national security problems. With unique authorities and capabilities, it acts boldly to change threats overseas into opportunities. It has a proud tradition of skill, bravery, and technical innovation. I will uphold our Agency's commitment to stand by the law and the Constitution, to build trust with the Congress through vigorous oversight, and to promote effective partnerships inside and outside the Intelligence Community.

Since my nomination, I have begun to see the Agency as it is now. This is a strong organization, and I commend Mike Hayden for improving its performance and morale through his leadership and patriotism. The challenge is to build on that success by continuing to shape CIA's role in protecting the nation, a job we must always do with absolute integrity. It will be my task to ensure that we are equipped and prepared for the demands of today and tomorrow.

In making decisions, I will count on the expertise of CIA professionals, starting with Steve Kappes, who has agreed to continue as Deputy Director. He embodies the Agency spirit of service before self. That clear and noble principle must guide the actions all of us take, from the Seventh Floor to the smallest, most distant base.

CIA is called to do great things for our country—advance its interests, promote its values, oppose its enemies, and aid its allies. I look forward to working with all of you to make our mission America's hope for a better and safer tomorrow.

Leon E. Panetta

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