Panetta: Lawmakers' focus on the past 'threatens' CIA's mission

Some lawmakers' insistence on investigating the past actions of the CIA "threatens to distract" the intelligence agency from its mission, CIA Director Leon Panetta wrote this weekend.

"I've become increasingly concerned that the focus on the past, especially in Congress, threatens to distract the CIA from its crucial core missions: intelligence collection, analysis and covert action," Panetta wrote in an op-ed to be published Sunday in the Washington Post.

The op-ed marks yet another salvo in the back-and-forth between Congress and the CIA director over the agency's national security initiatives during the Bush administration.

The most recent had come after the CIA revealed the Bush administration had withheld briefings about some programs targeting terrorist leaders.

Panetta complained that his agency "continues to pay a price for enduring disputes over policies that no longer exist" and that conflicts with lawmakers "fuel a climate of suspicion and partisanship on Capitol Hill that our intelligence officers -- and our country -- would be better off without."

"Judgments were made. Some of them were wrong," Panetta wrote. "But that should not taint those public servants who did their duty pursuant to the legal guidance provided. The last election made clear that the public wanted to move in a new direction."

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