06 May 2006

Good Work, Porter Goss!

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Pouting Spook mouthpiece, Dana Priest in today’s Washington Post exults over Porter Goss’s departure and mourns Goss’s purge of disloyal, disaffected officers (sharing some interesting gossip that gives a revealing glimpse of the other side’s perspective):

Porter J. Goss was brought into the CIA to quell what the White House viewed as a partisan insurgency against the administration and to re-energize a spy service that failed to prevent the Sept. 11 attacks or accurately assess Iraq’s weapons capability.

But as he walked out the glass doors of Langley headquarters yesterday, Goss left behind an agency that current and former intelligence officials say is weaker operationally, with a workforce demoralized by an exodus of senior officers and by uncertainty over its role in fighting terrorism and other intelligence priorities, said current and former intelligence officials…

.” Within headquarters, “he never bonded with the workforce,” said John O. Brennan, a former senior CIA official and interim director of the National Counterterrorism Center until last July.

“Now there’s a decline in morale, its capability has not been optimized and there’s a hemorrhaging of very good officers,” Brennan said. “Turf battles continue” with other parts of the recently reorganized U.S. intelligence community “because there’s a lack of clarity and he had no vision or strategy about the CIA’s future.” Brennan added: “Porter’s a dedicated public servant. He was ill-suited for the job.”…

Goss, then the Republican chairman of the House intelligence panel, was handpicked by the White House to purge what some in the administration viewed as a cabal of wily spies working to oppose administration policy in Iraq. “He came in to clean up without knowing what he was going to clean up,” one former intelligence official said.

Goss’s counterinsurgency campaign was so crudely executed by his top lieutenants, some of them former congressional staffers, that they drove out senior and mid-level civil servants who were unwilling to accept the accusation that their actions were politically motivated, some intelligence officers and outside experts said.

“The agency was never at war with the White House,” contended Gary Berntsen, a former operations officer and self-described Republican and Bush supporter who retired in June 2005. “Eighty-five percent of them are Republicans. The CIA was a convenient scapegoat.”

Less than two months after Goss took over, the much-respected deputy director of operations, Stephen R. Kappes, and his deputy, Michael Sulick, resigned in protest over a demand by Goss’s chief of staff, Patrick Murray, that Kappes fire Sulick for criticizing Murray.

Kappes “was the guy who a generation of us wanted to see as the DDO [operations chief]. Kappes’s leaving was a painful thing,” Berntsen said. “It made it difficult for [Goss] within the clandestine service. Unfortunately, this is something that dogged him during his tenure.”

The confrontation between Murray and the agency’s senior leadership continued throughout Goss’s tenure, exacerbated by the fact that Goss effectively allowed Murray and other close aides to run the agency, in the view of some current and former intelligence officials. Many agency officials felt the aides showed disdain for officers who had spent their careers in public service.

Four former deputy directors of operations once tried to offer Goss advice about changing the clandestine service without setting off a rebellion, but Goss declined to speak to any of them, said former CIA officials who are aware of the communications. The perception that Goss was conducting a partisan witch hunt grew, too, as staffers asked about the party affiliation of officers who sent in cables or analyses on Iraq that contradicted the Defense Department’s more optimistic scenarios.

“Unfortunately, Goss is going to be seen as the guy who oversaw the agency victimized by politics,” said Tyler Drumheller, a former chief of the European division. “His tenure saw the greatest loss of operational experience” in the operations division since congressional hearings on CIA domestic spying plunged the agency into crisis, he said.

Though the agency has grown considerably in size and budget in the past four years — the operations branch has reportedly grown in size by nearly 30 percent — dozens of officers with more than a decade of field experience each, those who would have been tapped as new staff chiefs or division heads, chose to leave.

Read from the opposite viewpoint from that of the Santa Cruz graduate I like to think of as: “Will-no-one-rid-me-of-this-turbulent?” Priest, it all sounds like awfully good news. Goss’s tenure may not have been long enough to settle Intelligence agency rivalries and turf wars, or to make the Agency as effective as it should be, but apparently Porter Goss did much toward accomplishing the absolutely necessary first step of cleaning out the self-important Mandarins pretending to a right to over-rule the policies of the elected government, along with the Peaceniks who somehow accidently wandered into the CIA’s Langley headquarters thinking they had arrived at Woodstock.

So the evening’s toast is: Hurrah for Porter Goss, and confusion (and long prison sentences) to Pouting Spooks and VIP-ers.

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