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Obama Picks Leon Panetta, Santa Clara University Alum, as CIA Director

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Jan. 6 -- President-elect Barack Obama has selected Santa Clara University alumnus, professor and former congressman Leon Panetta to take over the Central Intelligence Agency, according to Democratic officials.

If confirmed by the Senate, Panetta would work closely with Obama to help restore the agency's credibility and reputation after a series of missteps that began before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Panetta earned his bachelor's degree from Santa Clara in 1960 magna cum laude and also received his J.D. from the Santa Clara School of Law in 1963. As a law student, he was an editor of the Law Review. Panetta has also been on SCU's Board of Trustees since 1988.

"I'm confident that Mr. Panetta will work together with Janet Napolitano - also an SCU political science grad and the appointee for Director of Homeland Security - to ensure our country's security while respecting civil liberties and human rights," said Elsa Chen, assistant professor of political science at SCU. Chen is also the director of the university's public sector studies program, where she has worked closely with Panetta.

As Director of the CIA, Panetta would assist the president and top government leaders in making decisions related to national security.

"His approach will bring out the best in the CIA at this crucial time in its history," said Janet Flammang, chair of SCU's political science department. "He is universally respected for his ability to step back from the fray, keep focused on the big picture, and get others to do so as well."

Panetta has some experience with intelligence work from serving in the U.S. Army from 1964 to 1966. He also participated in daily intelligence briefings with President Clinton while serving as chief of staff from 1994 to 1997. Panetta was a member of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan commission that was charged with assessing a way to end the Iraq war.

"For years, Leon Panetta has taught a political science course that looks at politics from an insider's perspective. Our students have benefitted not only from this perspective, but more importantly, from watching a public servant in action," said Flammang.

Panetta served eight terms in Congress as the representative from California's 16th (now 17th) district. He authored the Hunger Prevention Act of 1988, the Fair Employment Practices Resolution extending civil rights protections to congressional employees, and legislation extending Medicare and Medicaid to hospice care for the terminally ill. In addition, he was successful in introducing legislation to protect the California coast, including the creation of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Panetta is well known for his leadership on budgetary matters. He served on the House Committee on the Budget for 14 years and chaired it from 1989 to 1993. In 1993, he left Congress to become President Clinton's director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Panetta was born in Monterey, California, and still lives there with his wife, Sylvia. Together they established and direct the Leon and Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy. The Institute serves as a nonpartisan study center for the advancement of public policy.

About Santa Clara University

Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California's Silicon Valley, offers its 8,685 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, plus masters and law degrees and engineering Ph.D.s. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. masters universities, California's oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see


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