SpyCast 2.13.24
Ep 620 | 2.13.24

CIA Director, Defense Secretary, Gentleman with Leon Panetta

Show Notes


Leon Panetta (Panetta Institute) joins Andrew (XLinkedIn) to discuss his lifetime of American public service. Secretary Panetta was the 2023 recipient of SPY’s William H. Webster Award. 

What You’ll Learn


  • Directing the Central Intelligence Agency
  • Intelligence & the Abbottabad Raid
  • Working within the Clinton Administration 
  • A life’s dedication to the safety of the American public


  • The power of patience and the ability to listen
  • Handing immense pressure and responsibility

And much, much more …

Episode Notes

This week on SpyCast, Andrew is joined by The Honorable Leon E. Panetta, this year’s recipient of the International Spy Museum’s The Honorable William H. Webster Distinguished Service Award.

In this episode, Secretary Panetta discusses his decades of experience working within the public service field, examining the many ways that intelligence has been critical to his roles as Secretary of Defense, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, White House Chief of Staff, and Chair of the House Budget Committee, among others. Tune in to hear insights from a son of Italian immigrants who went on to hold some of the most powerful seats in international government.


One of Secretary Panetta’s constant companions during his time as Secretary of Defense and Director of the CIA was his golden retriever, Bravo. Panetta is quoted to have said that Bravo kept him calm and grounded during times of crisis, and as a critical piece of his career, Bravo is seen at the side of the Secretary in his official DoD and CIA portraits. And no, Bravo never leaked a word from the high-level briefings he sat in on.  

Quotes of the Week

“I really believe that we cannot protect our national security without good intelligence. It's absolutely essential to our ability to make the right decision, and then to accomplish the mission.” – Leon Panetta.




*Beginner Resources*



  • The Spymasters: How the CIA Directors Shape History and the Future, C. Whipple (Scribner, 2021)
  • The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency, C. Whipple (Crown, 2018) 
  • Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace, L. Panetta & J. Newton (Penguin Books, 2014)
  • SECDEF: The Nearly Impossible Job of Secretary of Defense, C. A. Stevenson (Potomac Books, 2007) 



Primary Sources 

*Wildcard Resource*

  • Secretary Panetta now lives on a lovely vineyard in sunny California. Speaking of wine and spies, check out Vint Hill Winery in Warrenton, Virginia. 
  • In 1942 the US Army set up top-secret SIGINT operations at the now-vineyard after the farm’s owner, a Ham Radio enthusiast, set up a wire on the roof of the barn that could reach signals from Berlin. The farm was the site of The Signal Corps cryptographic school, which famously intercepted messages from Hiroshi Oshima in 1943.