After a little more than a year and a half of dealing with charges of politicizing the agency, sinking morale, and a too aggressive posture on leaks, DCIA Porter Goss has resigned.
CIA Director Porter Goss resigned unexpectedly Friday, leaving behind a spy agency still battling to recover from the scars of intelligence failures before America’s worst terrorist attack and faulty information that formed the U.S. rationale for invading Iraq.
It was the latest move in a second-term shake-up of President Bush’s team.
Making the announcement from the Oval Office, Bush called Goss’ tenure one of transition.
“He has led ably,” Bush said, Goss at his side. “He has a five-year plan to increase the analysts and operatives.”
He came under fire almost immediately, in part because he brought with him several top aides from Congress who were considered highly political for the CIA.
He had particularly poor relations with segments of the agency’s powerful clandestine service. In a bleak assessment, California Rep. Jane Harman, the Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, recently said, “The CIA is in a free fall,” noting that employees with a combined 300 years of experience have left or been pushed out.
Some quick observations and questions:
- It’s no secret that the operations branch of the Agency was angry and bitter at Goss. Within a month of taking charge, Goss forced out the #2 and #3 people at CIA including the Director of Operations and his deputy. This cleaning house was seen by many in the operations branch as a political hatchet job although Goss had come to office with a mandate from the President to try and fix what any fair minded person would have to admit was a dysfunctional organization. When it became clear who would obstruct him in this task, Goss took action.
- We on the right will probably make much of the fact that the resignation of Goss has come so soon following the firing of leaker Mary McCarthy. While its possible there may be a connection, I would have to say at this point that the move has more to do with internal White House politics where Goss obviously lost out. His allies were few and far between and if the President gave Chief of Staff Bolten carte blanche to clean house, Goss was going to be toast. Even Republicans in Congress were grumbling about Goss.
- On the other hand, the left will be playing up the possibility that Goss is going to be caught up in “Hookergate.” They will point to Goss’s close aide and #3 at the agency Dusty Foggo being under investigation by the Agency’s IG as well as the FBI for possible contract irregularities (Foggo was in charge of CIA contracts). Foggo’s relationship with Duke Cunningham conspirator Brent Wilkes is being put under the microscope as well as his connection to the “Poker Room” at the Watergate Hotel sponsored by Wilkes and where the FBI is investigating the possible employment of prostitutes to bribe federal officials. This is also an unlikely reason for his resignation as the investigation of Foggo has been going on 3 months and has not revealed anything illegal to date. But is it possible that the investigation of Foggo has given the White House the jitters? Bolten may figure why take the chance?
- Goss’s efforts to reform the agency hardly made a dent in the year and a half of his tenure. It is clear that many in the Agency see themselves above elected officials and therefore do not need to defer to their judgement. How widespread this attitude is came out in the defense of Mary McCarthy by active duty personnel. With few exceptions (if MSM reports can be believed), there was great sympathy for what she did. And we have the evidence of the last three years where the leaking of classified data in order to undermine Administration policies became so commonplace that a recent trip by the head of Israel’s Mossad to Washington and his conferring with our intelligence people on Iran’s nuclear abilities was considered remarkable because the news leaked from Israeli sources. The fact is, in retrospect, Goss may have not been precisely the man that Bush was looking for although it’s hard to fault his effort.
Goss did start the ball rolling on leak investigations – a ball that continues downhill and may yet yield more surprises. It is perhaps unfortunate that the DCIA got caught up in Josh Bolten’s broom that appears about ready to sweep away Secretary of the Treasury Snow next.
And it’s also a pity that those who continue to leak classified information for whatever reason – out of a misplaced sense of patriotism or out of pure partisanship – will be staying while Goss will be going. Perhaps who ever succeeds Goss will take it upon themselves to have the leakers follow the Director out the door.
I’m not going to give much reaction from the right. Allah has that covered nicely over at Hot Air, a site that seems to be starting to find a nice niche in the blogosphere – A/V plus a blog aggregator. Sort of a one stop shop for writing ideas and interesting links.
Also at Hot Air is an interesting link to a Time Magazine article that echoes my thoughts above; that a White House faction led by Negroponte forced Goss out.
Ever since John Negroponte was appointed Director of National Intelligence a year ago and given the task of coordinating the nationâ€™s myriad spy agencies, he has been diluting the power and prestige of the best known of them all, the Central Intelligence Agency. From day one, he supplanted the CIA Director as the Presidentâ€™s principal intelligence adviser, in charge of George W. Bushâ€™s daily briefing. Other changes followed, all originating in the law that created the DNI â€” and all traumatic for CIA fans. But now, in a little noticed move, Negroponte is signaling that he is moving still more responsibility from the CIA to his own office, including control over the analysis of terrorist groups and threatsâ€¦.
This is akin to getting kicked in the stomach for the DCIA. Once all powerful, he was going to be reduced to being an errand boy, shuffling reports and analysis between Langely and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Quite a comedown, that.
Former intel pro Spook86 has the McCarthy angle – and a chilling one at that:
What disturbs me about the Goss resignation is the possibility that internal battles may have worn down the director, and eventually convinced him to throw in the towel. Itâ€™s no secret that Goss has been fighting pitched battles against staffers who oppose Bush Administration policies, and the new management team at the CIA. Goss recently fired CIA officer Mary McCarthy for unauthorized contacts with the press, and there are hints that other agency staffers may be implicated as well. But earlier this week, the CIA launched an investigation of the agencyâ€™s #3 officialâ€“a Goss appointeeâ€“in connection with the bribery scandal that sent former Congressman Randy â€œDukeâ€ Cunningham to federal prison. Given the timingâ€“and announcementâ€“of the inquiry, there was some belief that the probe was something of a â€œcounter-attackâ€ by agencyâ€™s anti-administration cabal.
Spook is blaming jousting inside the Agency which very well could be the truth. However, the investigation of Foggo has been going on since late February which would seem to discount the pushback against Goss for the McCarthy investigation. This is not to say that the anti-Bush faction didn’t make Goss’s life hell these last few months but it does limit the scope of what they could have done to put pressure on him to leave.
On the other hand, as I predicted above, the left is all agog over the possibility that Goss is hip deep in Hookergate. They practically have him in bed with his very own Fanne Fox/Sherry Rowlands not to mention giving the government away on a silver platter to Dick Cunningham’s conspirators.
Wonkette informs us that the Washington Post has an “exclusive” story coming up tonight that will probably start connecting some dots between Goss and another Cunningham crony Mitchell Wade as well as increase speculation about other connections to Hookergate. Sounds to me like someone at the Post as a bad case of Pulitzer fever but nothing is impossible at this point.
My own guess is that the Post story won’t go half as far as the left is drooling for but at the same time will go twice as far as the right is willing to stomach. In other words, it won’t tell us too damn much, probably regurgitating what’s been churning on lefty blogs for the past 10 days or so.