May 2, 2011
President Barack Obama extolled intelligence operatives and special forces for their “extraordinary courage and capability” in the tracking and killing of Osama Bin Laden late Sunday—with CIA Director Leon Panetta recognized as playing a pivotal role in bringing the Al Qaeda figurehead to justice.
“Shortly after taking office I directed Leon Panetta, director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of Bin Laden the top priority in our war against Al Qaeda,” President Obama said in an address to the nation from the White House Sunday night.
It took Panetta a little over two years to find and eliminate the terrorist leader—impressive considering a man known largely for his budget busting, environmental and civil rights work.
But the CIA director recognizes that the killing of Bin Laden is not the end of the U.S. “war on terror.” In a memo to CIA staff, Panetta wrote, “Bin Laden is dead. Al-Qaida is not,” according to an Associated Press article.
Panetta represented the Monterey area in Congress during eight terms in the House, with time spent as Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on the Budget and authoring numerous acts of environmental legislation, including the creation of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. He was also a key player in the Clinton administration as director of Office of Management and Budget, and was promoted to chief of staff in 1994.
More recently, he founded the Panetta Institute for Public Policy at CSU Monterey Bay, bringing D.C. policymakers to lectures held throughout the year. He relinquished the reins of the institute to his wife, Sylvia, in Feb. of 2009 after his nomination by President Obama to Director of the CIA. He is expected to take charge of the Department of Defense sometime this summer.