May 5, 2006
CIA chief abruptly quits
BY STEPHEN J. HEDGES
WASHINGTON - CIA Director Porter Goss abruptly resigned Friday after just 19 tumultuous months on the job, a tenure the Bush administration had hoped would rehabilitate the nation's faltering intelligence community.
"Porter's tenure at the CIA was one of transition," said Bush during a White House Oval Offive event, "and that was a tough job." The president added that Goss had served "ably."
At the same photo session, Goss did not give a reason for his resignation, stating simply, "This morning, I notified the president that I will be stepping aside as director of CIA."
Goss' rapid departure comes after several weeks of a White House shakeup, as Bush shuffles his senior staff to give his presidency new focus and his slumping approval ratings new bounce.
But the departure of Goss, whose time at the CIA has been stormy, may be unrelated to that White House shakeup. It apparently was an abrupt resignation, and the White House was not immediately prepared to name a successor. :It also comes as an FBI investigation of a congressional bribery scandal has touched on the third-highest official at the CIA, a man promoted by Goss.
Goss, who replaced George Tenet, assumed the CIA job during a period of great uncertainty within the national security apparatus, and after months of criticism of the CIA and other agencies for failing to detect the Sept. 11 terrorist plot.
From the start, Goss met steady resistance from an entrenched CIA bureaucracy, one that had been heavily criticized for failing to develop accurate intelligence on Iraq before the March 2003 U.S. invasion of that country. In some quarters, the CIA also was castigated for ostensibly bowing to Bush administration pressure to provide information that supported the president's decision to invade Iraq.
That's particularly true in the case of the agency's prewar estimate that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons have been found in Iraq by U.S. forces.
Former Sen. Warren Rudman, R-N.H., who has served as chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, said Goss struggled to cope with the CIA's diminished stature in the nation's intelligence apparatus.
Shortly after Goss became CIA director in September 2004, the intelligence community was reorganized, and John Negroponte became director of national intelligence. That meant Negroponte became the nation's top intelligence official, a title previously held by the CIA director.
"Porter has had difficulties dealing with people above him and below him," Rudman said. "It's not a personality conflict. It's a structural conflict."
A former veteran CIA analyst said Goss' resignation is "something that may well have been inevitable in the re-negotiation of power and direction between the new director of national intelligence and the CIA. And also, the CIA has continued to lose a great deal of its power over these last few years to the Department of Defense."
The former analyst noted that of the people mentioned as possible replacements for Goss - Fran Townsend, the White House homeland security adviser; Mary Margaret Graham, Negroponte's deputy for intelligence collection; and David Shedd, chief of staff to Negroponte - at least two work for Negroponte and would thus be beholden to him. Negroponte's No. 2, Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden, who formerly headed the National Security Agency and has a broad intelligence background, also has been mentioned as a possible successor.
Goss' troubles at the CIA began almost immediately when his intention to name a subordinate, Michael Kostiw, was undermined by a leak that Kostiw had been asked to leave the agency two decades ago, apparently after a shoplifting incident. Subsequent Goss hires were viewed as abrasive, prompting the departure of a number of key CIA veterans.
Goss was also left to negotiate the agency's new role under Negroponte, who has ultimate authority over all 15 intelligence agencies. Creation of a superior led to confusion among the agencies over responsibilities and intelligence sources.
"When Mr. Goss came over, I don't think he intended to play second fiddle to anyone," said Michael Scheuer, a former CIA terrorism analyst who wrote a book critical of the Bush administration's war on terror and its invasion of Iraq. "So his days were always numbered."
The problems continued until just recently as Goss dragged his agency through an agency-wide investigation for news leaks.
That investigation led to the firing last month of Mary McCarthy, a CIA analyst who the agency accused of having unauthorized contact with news reporters. McCarthy has disputed the agency's claim.
One retired CIA analyst and 30-year agency veteran said by e-mail that the McCarthy firing "was the last straw, because it attracted the wrong kind of attention to the agency."
In recent days, Goss came to face the very real possibility that a top CIA officer could become entangled in a congressional bribery scandal.
Kyle Dustin "Dusty" Foggo, whom Goss plucked from the intelligence bureaucracy to be the agency's third-highest official, has become entangled in a federal investigation into a congressional bribery scandal, which has already resulted in the guilty plea and imprisonment of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif.
The FBI is now investigating the possible use of prostitutes at a Washington hotel at parties hosted by defense contractor Brent Wilkes and attended by CIA officials and legislators. Wilkes is an unindicted co-conspirator in the Cunningham case. Foggo is among those who reportedly attended his parties at the Watergate Hotel and Westin Grand Hotel.
In addition to the FBI inquiry, the CIA's inspector general, an in-house watchdog, is investigating Foggo's role, if any, in the award of a contract to one of Wilkes' companies.
Neither Wilkes nor Foggo has been charged with wrongdoing.
But some within the CIA said Goss' departure was not prompted by pressure from within the agency.
"I don't think the old guard pushed him out the door," said one former senior CIA operations officer. "With this administration, they're not going to let the old guard push out Goss."
Other CIA veterans surmised that Goss is leaving the agency to avoid being associated with the scandal. "I think he left preemptively," said one former senior CIA officer. "I think the momentum has been against Goss for some time now, one problem after another."
Goss, who served 16 years in the House of Representatives before moving to the CIA, drew measured praise from congressional leaders when his resignation was made public.
"Director Goss took the helm of the intelligence community at a very difficult time in the wake of the intelligence failures associated with 9/11 and Iraq WMD," said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. "Porter made some significant improvements at the CIA, but I think even he would say they still have some way to go."
Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, Roberts' Democratic counterpart on the intelligence panel, said, "Regrettably, Porter Goss' tenure as director of the CIA was a tumultuous one. His chief mission was to reform the operations of the CIA and to lead the agency with foresight and vision, yet his tenure was marked by an exodus of talented and respected intelligence officers and a demoralized staff."
Goss pledged to promote the CIA's human intelligence-gathering, building up its directorate of operations to recruit more foreign spies - a shortage of spies in places like Iraq was a major shortcoming noted by congressional intelligence overseers. But some within the CIA said the promise has yet to be fulfilled.
"There's been this whole reform afloat in the intelligence community," said Melissa Mahle, a former CIA operations officer and author of the book "Denial and Deception: An Insider's View of the CIA from Iran-Contra to 9/11." "There's been a particular focus on human intelligence. And yet we haven't seen the same dynamism of change in the human capabilities within the CIA as in other agencies."
Instead, Goss' stewardship of the agency suffered through the early resignations of the very veterans agency officials had hoped would help rebuild the clandestine service. They included Stephen Kappes, deputy director of clandestine services, and Michael Sulick, associate deputy director of operations. John McLaughlin, a 32-year veteran CIA analyst and once acting director, also left about two months after Goss arrived.
--- Chicago Tribune correspondents John Crewdson, Mike Dorning and Andrew Zajac contributed to this report.