Saturday, May 06, 2006

Guardian: Abrupt exit for chief of 'floundering' CIA

Abrupt exit for chief of 'floundering' CIA

Suzanne Goldenberg Washington
Saturday May 6, 2006

Porter Goss, charged with revitalising the CIA after its failures of intelligence in the September 11 2001 attacks and the run-up to the Iraq war, abruptly resigned from his post yesterday barely a year after taking the job.

Mr Goss's departure had been predicted for some time within intelligence circles, where discontent at his leadership of the CIA was well-known. At yesterday's announcement at the Oval office President George Bush offered no explanation for the departure of Mr Goss, but it was widely believed that he had been paralysed in his mission to turn around the agency.

"Porter's tenure at the CIA was one of transition. He has helped this agency become integrated into the intelligence community. That was a tough job. He has led ably," Mr Bush said.

Mr Goss replied that he believed that he had left America in safer hands. "I believe the agency is on a very even keel. I honestly believe that we have improved dramatically," he said.

The Associated Press reported that the national intelligence director, John Negroponte, could name a replacement for Mr Goss as early as Monday.

Mr Goss, a Republican Congressman from Florida, was named to head the CIA in the autumn of 2004 to help it recover from the intelligence failures and low morale that overshadowed the watch of George Tenet.

However, his arrival was widely believed to have ushered in an era of even greater instability and instituional infighting. In addition to his failure to earn the confidence of senior CIA staff, Mr Goss raised hackles by bringing with him congressional aides who were seen as overly political.

"I don't think that it's a big secret that there have been real leadership problems at the agency, and that Goss was not really able to gather the agency behind him and implement his vision," said Melissa Mahle, who worked for the agency in the Middle East.

"Among the more senior people in the community, there is a sense that the agency is lagging behind. The rest of the community is on track with major reforms, and yet the CIA is floundering."

Mr Goss was seen to be overly concerned with stifling dissent, announcing a crackdown on leaks which, some CIA officials believed, was a thinly veiled attempt to limit criticism of administration policy in the war on terror.

Those grievances combined to further undermine Mr Goss's position once his powers as CIA chief were curtailed with the creation of the post of national intelligence director, which made Mr Negroponte the intelligence overseer.

With those factors against Mr Goss, it was believed there was little to keep him in the post after Josh Bolten, the new White House chief of staff, made it clear that any administration officials considering their futures should resign immediately or be prepared to serve for the duration of Mr Bush's second term.


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