Hours after the two top clandestine service officers at the CIA resigned yesterday, Director Porter J. Goss asked employees to remain loyal to the agency and rebutted allegations that he had a partisan agenda.
"We provide the intelligence as we see it and let the facts alone speak to the policymakers," Goss wrote in an internal e-mail to CIA employees, according to two people who read it to The Washington Post. Goss told them to expect "a series of changes" in the days and weeks ahead, "in the organization, personnel" and mission of the agency.
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The e-mail was the first communication from Goss to the wider CIA audience since controversies arose over senior aides he has appointed.
Goss has said he believes the CIA's clandestine service is dysfunctional and needs changes. His critics say the director, a former CIA case officer and Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, is purging the agency of career officers whom he incorrectly perceives as critical of Bush administration policies.
In addition, Goss has over the last month put in charge several former Hill staff members who are not well regarded by senior officials because they lack managerial and operational experience, and are believed to have treated career officers disrespectfully.
This is not the first time a new director's personnel changes have put the agency in turmoil, but the criticism of the Goss team's actions is the first to raise questions of partisanship.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said yesterday that Goss and some White House officials were concerned that unauthorized disclosures of information by the CIA during the election campaign "were intended to damage the president," and he accused a "rogue" element within the agency of carrying them out.
Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, yesterday accused Goss's aides of having partisan motives. Targeting officials in the clandestine service, whose job is to manage CIA operations around the world, for leaks of a prewar National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was "totally misguided," she said.
The two resignations yesterday, of Deputy Director of Operations Stephen R. Kappes and his deputy, Michael Sulick, will "undermine the morale of the workforce that had undergone a renaissance since the failures of 9/11," she said.
Goss yesterday named the current director of the counterterrorism center to replace Kappes. His name is being withheld by The Post because he is still undercover. He is a 28-year employee with lengthy experience in Latin America and was the chief of station in Mexico, according to several former CIA officers.
"There will be no gap in our operations fighting the global war on terror, nor in any of our other vital activities," Goss said in a separate statement released yesterday.
Kappes is a widely respected officer who helped persuade Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi to renounce weapons of mass destruction this year. Sulick, whose career includes assignments in South America, the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, headed the agency's counterintelligence center until becoming Kappes's deputy. Both are highly regarded by clandestine service colleagues, said 10 former CIA officials who worked with them.
Also last week, the agency's deputy director, John E. McLaughlin, retired.
The personnel moves follow a series of confrontations between Goss's new chief of staff, Patrick Murray, and senior operations staff members.