'This Week' Transcript: Panetta

PANETTA: Well look, CIA is an agency that has to collect intelligence, do operations. We have to take risks and it's important that we take risks and that we know that we have the support of the government and we have the support of the American people in what we're doing. With regards to this investigation, I know the reasons the attorney general decided to proceed. I didn't agree with them, but he decided to proceed. We're cooperating with him in that investigation. I've had discussions with the attorney general. He assures me that this investigation will be expedited and I think in the end, it will turn out to be OK. What I've told my people is please focus on the mission we have. Let me worry about Washington and those issues. And I think that's -- they have and I think frankly the morale at the CIA is higher than it's ever been.

TAPPER: We only have a few minutes left, but I want to ask, you're now privy to information about some of the ugliest, toughest tactics carried out by intelligence agencies with the purpose of defending our nation, stuff that probably as a member of Congress or OMB director of White House chief of staff, you suspected, but didn't actually know for a fact. How rough is it, and does any of it ever make it difficult for you to sleep at night or run to do an extra confession?

PANETTA: Well, I didn't realize that I would be making decisions, many decisions about life and death as I do now. And I don't take those decisions lightly. Those are difficult decisions. But at the same time, I have to tell you that the most rewarding part of this job -- I mean, we had a tragedy where we lost seven of our officers and it was tragic. But at the same time, it also provided a great deal of inspiration because the quality of people that work at the CIA are very dedicated and very committed to trying to help save this country and protect this country. They're not Republicans, they're not Democrats, they're just good Americans trying to do their job and that, I think, is the most rewarding part of being director of the CIA.

TAPPER: What's the flip side? Sleepless nights?

PANETTA: The flip side is you have to spend an awful lot of time worried about what the hell is going to go on our there and that keeps me up at night.

TAPPER: What -- this is my last question for you because we only have about a minute left -- what terrorist threat are we as a nation not paying enough attention to?

Or forget terrorist threat, what threat are we not paying enough attention to?

PANETTA: I think the one I worry about is, again, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the fact that one of those weapons could fall into the hands of a terrorist. I think that's one concern. And there is a lot of the stuff out there, and you worry about just exactly where it's located and who's getting their hands on it.

The other is the whole area of cyber security. We are now in a world in which cyber warfare is very real. It could threaten our grid system. It could threaten our financial system. It could paralyze this country, and I think that's an area we have to pay a lot more attention to.

TAPPER: All right, Director Leon Panetta, thank you so much for coming here today. Really appreciate it.

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