Panetta ‘not aware’ of others linked to scandal

Updated 16 November 2012
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Panetta ‘not aware’ of others linked to scandal

BANGKOK: US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said yesterday he was “not aware” of any other officials linked to the sex scandal that brought down CIA chief David Petraeus and embroiled another top general.
Petraeus, the most prominent US general of his generation and credited with turning around the war in Iraq, resigned last week to pre-empt revelations of an affair with biographer Paula Broadwell, a married army reservist.
The US commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, has also been linked to a key figure in the case, Jill Kelley, and is now under investigation for potentially inappropriate emails he exchanged with her.
Amid a widening scandal, Panetta told reporters during a visit to Thailand that he did not know of other officers possibly linked to the case apart from Petraeus and Allen.
“I am not aware of any others that could be involved in this issue at the present time,” Panetta told a news conference after talks with his Thai counterpart.
But he said the full facts would emerge once Congress and the Pentagon’s inspector general completed investigations.
Panetta reiterated that he had “tremendous confidence” in Allen as commander in Afghanistan.
He has put the general’s nomination to be NATO’s supreme allied commander on hold pending the outcome of a probe by the US Defense Department inspector general into potentially “inappropriate” emails between Allen and Kelley.
After sources loyal to Allen insisted the emails were harmless and that he had done nothing wrong, unnamed officials told some news media the messages between the commander and Kelley were sexually explicit.
Asked about the reports, Panetta declined to discuss the nature of the correspondence between Allen and Kelley, saying he wanted to avoid any sign of interference with the Pentagon inspector general’s probe.
“What I don’t want to do is to try to characterize those communications because... I don’t want to do anything that would impact on their (investigators’) ability to conduct an objective review of what was contained in those emails,” Panetta said.
The scandal surrounding Petraeus follows a spate of embarrassing allegations and reprimands against senior officers, with one general demoted after a probe found he had misused government funds for lavish trips.
Panetta insisted the “vast majority” of the hundreds of generals and admirals in the US military conduct themselves with distinction and courage.
But he said he would insist that all top officers display the highest integrity.
“One thing I do demand and I think we all demand is that those who seek to protect this country operate by the highest ethical standards.”
US President Barack Obama assured Americans on Wednesday that the scandal has not compromised national security.


First female CIA director Gina Haspel is sworn in

Updated 17 min 43 sec ago
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First female CIA director Gina Haspel is sworn in

  • Gina Haspel was confirmed by the Senate last week in a 54-45 vote, despite the deep reservations of some lawmakers about her past involvement in the torture of terror suspects in the post-9/11 era.
  • Trump paid tribute to Haspel as “a very special person” who was uniquely qualified to lead “the most elite intelligence professionals on the planet Earth.”

WASHINGTON: Veteran CIA officer Gina Haspel was sworn in as the agency’s first female director Monday, hailing the “heroines” who had gone before her and expressing hope she and her team would be “role models.”
The 61-year-old Haspel, a Russia specialist who spent her career in the Central Intelligence Agency’s clandestine service, takes over from Mike Pompeo, whom Trump recently made his secretary of state.
Haspel was confirmed by the Senate last week in a 54-45 vote, despite the deep reservations of some lawmakers about her past involvement in the torture of terror suspects in the post-9/11 era.
“I stand on the shoulders of heroines who never sought public acclaim, but served as inspirations to the generations that came after them,” Haspel said after being sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence and introduced by President Donald Trump.
“I would not be standing before you today if not for the remarkable courage and dedication displayed by generations” of women officers, she said at CIA headquarters in Virginia.
“In roles both large and small,” Haspel said they “challenged stereotypes, broke down barriers and opened doors for the rest of us.”
“I am deeply indebted to them and I am extremely proud to follow in their footsteps and to carry on their extraordinary legacy.”
Haspel added: “I want the current CIA leadership team to be role models and mentors for our next generation of officers.”
She joked about her bruising confirmation hearing, which dug into her work overseeing a secret “black site” prison in Thailand.
It was there that Al-Qaeda suspects Abu Zubaydah and Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri were water-boarded, an interrogation technique subsequently condemned as torture.
“It has been nearly 50 years since an operations officer rose up through the ranks to become the director and after the experience of the last two months, I think I know why that is,” she told officers and invited guests.
In his introductory remarks, Trump paid tribute to Haspel as “a very special person” who was uniquely qualified to lead “the most elite intelligence professionals on the planet Earth.”
“Our enemies will take note: Gina is tough. She is strong. And when it comes to defending America, Gina will never, ever back down,” Trump said.
The president largely avoided the controversies swirling around his presidency, including his allegations, just hours earlier, that former CIA director John Brennan was behind the investigation into his campaign’s dealings.
Trump however angered some former CIA officers with his decision to thank “courageous” Congressman Devin Nunes.
A Trump supporter, Nunes has demanded documents about the investigation into Team Trump, but which the intelligence community says risks exposing sources.
Former intelligence officer David Priess said Trump’s comment about Nunes was “disgusting.”
“I can’t imagine this comment goes over well-but, unlike the president, IC officials are respectful enough not to make a scene,” Priess said.