CIA Chief Provides Economic Intel Brief

By Dschabner

Feb 25, 2009 10:22pm

ABC News’ Luis Martinez reports: Highlighting the potential impact the worldwide economic downturn may have on global security and foreign policy, new CIA Director Leon Panetta said today that the agency is now producing a new daily intelligence document for President Obama and other top officials that focuses on economic issues.

Panetta says the new intelligence product, known as the Economic Intelligence Brief, is intended to make sure that policymakers "aren’t surprised by the implications of the worldwide economic crisis."

The first brief was presented to the White House this morning, after a request from the Obama administration, Panetta said.

He said the briefs would "cover overseas developments –- economic, political, leadership developments," as well as "the implications of those developments in terms of the U.S. economy."

The new intelligence brief is another sign of the Obama administration’s focus on economic issues. 

Since his first day in office, Obama has received daily briefings from his economic advisers that take place before the long-standard security briefing focused on the intelligence community’s daily assessment, known as the Presidential Daily Brief.

In a wide-ranging session with reporters at CIA headquarters in McLean, Va., Panetta said the economic recession was having an impact on China and European countries and that there was particular concern for the economic stability of Argentina, Ecuador and Argentina.

With regards to the war on terror, Panetta said "nothing has changed" the CIA’s efforts to go after terrorists "and nothing will change those efforts … none of that has diminished and none of it will."

In a veiled reference to air strikes from CIA Predator drones in Pakistan’s tribal border regions, Panetta said al Qaeda has suffered "key setbacks in recent months."  Without directly addressing the air strikes, Panetta referred to successful "operational efforts … going after members of al Qaeda" that have the support of President Obama and are probably "the most effective weapon we have to try to disrupt al Qaeda right now."

Panetta would not provide details about reports that North Korea is preparing to launch a long-range missile, beyond noting Pyongyang’s public statement that the country plans to launch a satellite in the near future. He said, however, that the agency would be paying "a great deal of attention" to the possibility of a missile launch. 

Much as he did during his swear-in ceremony last Thursday, Panetta pledged to provide "honest and straight" intelligence "not impacted by partisan views," a criticism of how the Bush administration handled intelligence in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

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