"Michael Goldfarb at The Weekly Standard makes a decent point though - if you can trace it. 'Panetta's term as White House chief of staff coincided with the first serious use of extraordinary rendition by the Clinton administration.' The Chief of Staff is not addressed in the rendition memo; might he have known? During the Clinton administration, is he in the circle intimately enough for it to matter?"
It's only been a few days, but the portrait of Panetta in those years has been significantly developed. The Telegraph blog asks the same question I do - Did Leon Panetta know about 'extraordinary renditions' under Clinton? Most interestingly, Fred Kaplan at Slate gets a response from Richard Clarke to this question:
"Richard Clarke, who was the White House counterterrorism director under Clinton(and, briefly, under Bush before resigning and then emerging as a celebrated critic), wrote in an e-mail today:
'Leon was in all of the important national security meetings for years, both as [Office of Management and Budget] director and as chief of staff. He made substantive contributions well outside of his job description. And as OMB director, he was one of a very few people who knew about all of the covert and special-access programs.'"
Kaplan elaborates on the special-access programs, but I find it odd, especially in light of the criticism that will come, and has been coming from the Right for the purpose, I assume, of yelling hypocrite and protecting the Bush legacy, that he doesn't elaborate on the covert programs section of Clarke's statement. Panetta was Chief of Staff until January 20, 1997. Clinton's rendition directive is dated June 21, 1995 - about a year into his Chief of Staff tenure. Clarke appears to be saying, yeah, Panetta knew.
Maybe we should thank Kaplan for not contributing to what will probably develop - the Panetta as renditionist narrative. Some accounts suggest Clinton renditions and Bush renditions are different animals. It's worth discovering how true that is. But a narrative developing of Panetta as renditionist is not going to help end rendition, at all. Hence, the not-so-great convergence. It is worth noting that Panetta has not said anything (to my knowledge) about rendition. Someone needs to ask him about it. See, this is why I like the Campaign to Ban Torture people.
Kaplan is wrong on all counts about Kappes though:
"Kappes was the longtime deputy director of clandestine operations until Bush named Rep. Porter Goss to run the CIA in 2004, at which point he resigned in disgust—along with many other professional agency veterans—over the heavy-handed campaign, by Goss and his goons, to turn Langley into a cheering section for Bush's policies. When Goss left in disgrace two years later, one of the first moves that his successor, Gen. Michael Hayden, made was to bring back Kappes as his deputy-which did much to restore morale. (Bonus: In part because of his absence, Kappes eluded association with Bush's darkest deeds—or so it is believed.)"
Kappes was the deputy director of operations for a few months - August-Nov 2004. He was the associate (or, assistant) deputy director - aka no.2 in operations - for about two years. And believe me, enough horrible sh*t happened before November 2004 to make it impossible to say Kappes' "eluded association of Bush's darkest deeds" - Zubaydah's waterboarding comes to mind. Oh, and how about that rendition Kappes authorized?
If people believe Kappes is clean, it is because of incompetent reporting like this. Kaplan has great sources - but regarding Kappes, he is seriously wrong.
Update: Ambinder has an interesting interview with rumored D/CIA candidate Tim Roemer. He asks Roemer about possible prosecutions of CIA case officers. I can tell you now, if Kappes stays as Deputy Director, case officers have nothing to worry about. Unless Obama wants to continue the Bush position - leave case officers (Bob Lady) hanging out to dry, protect the higher-ups.