Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, set the tone by telling Panetta that she views his nomination as "a clean break from the past," the Chicago Tribune reported. Feinstein had reportedly been annoyed when President Barack Obama announced his choice of Panetta as director of the Central Intelligence Agency without consulting or even alerting her.
Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., the vice-chairman, said he planned to question Panetta closely, given his lack of intelligence experience. But he also said he hoped that Panetta would end "turf battles and power struggles" between the intelligence agencies.
Panetta, a former congressman from California and President Bill Clinton's chief of staff, told the committee he would bring some skills to the CIA.
"I know Washington,'' Panetta said. "I think I know why it works, and I think I know why it fails to work.''
The committee did not vote on the nomination Thursday.
Documents released in advance of the hearing showed that Panetta received more than $1 million in 2007 in consulting and speaking fees and in fees for serving on corporate boards.