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US Senate confirms new CIA director
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The U.S. Senate on Thursday unanimously confirmed Leon Panetta, former chief of staff in former President Bill Clinton's White House, as the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA.

Panetta, 70, will become the oldest person to head the spy agency.

Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Panetta would mark a "new beginning" for the CIA.

Kit Bond, the top Republican on the committee, said he supported Panetta after receiving assurances from him that he will "use all appropriate and lawful means" to keep the nation safe.

Panetta was an eight-term congressman from central California who chaired the powerful House Budget Committee before moving over to the Clinton White House as the budget director.

He later became Clinton's chief of staff.

He left government in 1997 and returned to California, where he and his wife created the Leon and Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy, a nonprofit foundation.

During his confirmation hearing last week, Panetta vowed to reform the former Bush administration's controversial interrogation, detention and rendition program.

He called waterboarding, a kind of interrogation technique that simulates drowning, as torture, but said intelligence officers who carried it out should not be prosecuted.

Panetta vowed not to send terrorism suspects to other countries where they could be tortured, but insisted such renditions are an "appropriate tool" if the United States got assurances from the receiving country that the individuals "would not be treated inhumanely."

(Xinhua News Agency February 13, 2009)

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