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Leon Panetta, CIA director during operation that killed Osama bin Laden, in Portland Thursday
Author: Bryan Denson, The Oregonian
Posted: October 23, 2014
Leon Panetta.JPG
This photo provided by CBS News shows former Secretary of Defense and former Director of Central Intelligence Leon Panetta talking about his new book on CBS'S "Face the Nation" Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014, in Washington. Panetta also spoke at length about the fight against Islamic militants. (AP Photo/CBS News, Chris Usher)

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Leon Panetta led a charmed, fruitful career in government service.

He served as CIA director during the operation to kill Osama bin Laden (James Gandolfini later played him, in all his profanity, in "Zero Dark Thirty") and Secretary of Defense when the military announced plans to allow women in combat positions.

Panetta is in the City of Roses Thursday to give the keynote address for Portland State University's Simon Benson Awards dinner. The primary awards go this year to a trio of Portland philanthropists: Earl M. Chiles and Christine and David Vernier.

Panetta's memoir – "Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace" – was released on Oct. 7 after a brief clash with the CIA's pre-publication review panel. Since then, he's ruffled the Obama administration's feathers by noting some of the president's shortcomings in the fight against the Islamic State.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. took umbrage.

"I think (what) Leon said in the book is unfortunate," Holder told CNN. "But frankly, I don't think it's something that a former Cabinet member should do while the president he served is still in office. ... That's not something that I would even consider doing."

In last week's New York Times Sunday Book Review, Leslie H. Gelb said he couldn't think of a single Democrat – and only a few Republicans – who held as many key positions in both Congress and the executive branch.

"And he can claim substantial accomplishments: saving the food stamp program, masterminding the plan to kill Osama bin Laden, helping lead an effective war on terrorism, managing vast cuts in Pentagon spending without political and bureaucratic turmoil," Gelb wrote.

He wrote that the book has nary a bombshell revelation, but the portions on the turmoil in Syria and Iraq seem to have taken on a life of their own.

"But they are not the book," Gelb wrote. "Young people searching for the role model of a public servant will find few as good as Panetta, and if they are willing to forgive the lack of uplifting prose, they will discover in 'Worthy Fights' a plausible path to power and achievement."

Oregon Public Broadcasting reportedly landed an exclusive interview with Panetta, which is set for broadcast in coming days.