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A Cloak But No Dagger

The committees' investigative work, and most of the hearings, will be conducted in secret. Public sessions -- which Goss predicts will start in June -- are not expected to be anything like the no-holds-barred spy scandal hearings run by Sen. Frank Church in the 1970s.

"The contrast is so stark as to be amazing," says Richard V. Allen, President Reagan's first national security adviser, who has long admired Goss's "unassuming" style. If Goss had led the Church Commission probe, "the outcome could be the same, reining in the excesses of the intelligence community," says Allen, "with much less spin."

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The co-chairmen -- so similar of mind they're like "Frick and Frack," in Goss's description -- vow to pose tough questions and serve as truth-seeking advocates for the citizenry. "We are going to go where this takes us," Goss says.

"If the facts indicate there were people whose behavior warrants sanctions, we'll say so," says Graham.

"I have a very low tolerance level," says Goss, striking a patrician tone, "for lack of performance." He relaxes his lanky frame in a leather office chair and poses a question to himself:

"Can I be trusted to be objective in the very responsible role I have as chairman . . . because of my past association with the CIA? The answer, I believe, is yes." He calls himself "harder on the agency than anybody" and points out, "I don't want to be embarrassed, as an alumnus of the organization."

Spoken like a true Company man.

A Sea Change

Resting in his Washington hotel room, the spy felt lightheaded. His pulse raced. He called a doctor. Then he collapsed.

When 31-year-old Porter J. Goss regained consciousness, he was in a hospital, undergoing treatment for a massive infection. It was 1970. The CIA had called him to Washington from his home base in England, where he lived with his wife, Mariel, and four children.

Goss nearly died, and doctors had no idea what caused the staph infection of his heart and other vital organs. Neither did he. (He rules out deliberate poisoning.)

"This was out of the wild blue," says Goss, now 63. The illness put him in a wheelchair, cut short his CIA career and pushed his life in a new direction.

The son of a metals company sales manager, Goss grew up in Waterbury, Conn., and recalls watching World War II artillery shells being transported to the factory floor as a boy. But he wasn't working class. His family could afford to send him to Hotchkiss prep school and Yale, where he joined the Army ROTC and made his first contacts with the Central Intelligence Agency. He trained as a military intelligence officer after graduation, and by 1962 he was working at the CIA, deployed to Miami in time for the Cuban missile crisis.

He did photo interpretation and "small-boat handling" but doesn't want to lay out specifics. "I had some very interesting moments in the Florida Straits," he says. "I don't think I'd be comfortable going to Cuba." (Though earlier this year he visited the U.S. base at Guantanamo, wanting to make sure that debriefings there of Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners were "getting the proper results.")

Goss was facile with languages, a student of Greek and Latin who spoke Spanish and French. The CIA sent him to various "hot spots," including Haiti, Santo Domingo and Mexico. He recruited and ran agents, foreign nationals who could help collect what he calls "the gold," the prized nuggets of information that resided inside people's heads: Their "plans and intentions."

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