A Year Later, Goss's CIA Is Still in Turmoil
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
When Porter J. Goss took over a failure-stained CIA last year, he promised to reshape the agency beginning with the area he knew best: its famed spy division.
Goss, himself a former covert operative who had chaired the House intelligence committee, focused on the officers in the field. He pledged status and resources for case officers, sending hundreds more to far-off assignments, undercover and on the front line of the battle against al Qaeda.
A year later, Goss is at loggerheads with the clandestine service he sought to embrace. At least a dozen senior officials -- several of whom were promoted under Goss -- have resigned, retired early or requested reassignment. The directorate's second-in-command walked out of Langley last month and then told senators in a closed-door hearing that he had lost confidence in Goss's leadership.
The turmoil has left some employees shaken and has prompted former colleagues in Congress to question how Goss intends to improve the agency's capabilities and restore morale. The White House is aware of the problems, administration officials said, and believes they are being handled by the director of national intelligence, who now oversees the agency.
But the Senate intelligence committee, which generally took testimony once a year from Goss's predecessors, has invited him for an unusual closed-door hearing today. Senators, according to their staff, intend to ask the former congressman from Florida to explain why the CIA is bleeding talent at a time of war, and to answer charges that the agency is adrift.
"Hundreds of years of leadership and experience has walked out the door in the last year," said Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), "and more senior people are making critical career decisions as we speak."
On a recent visit to a large CIA station in the Middle East, Harman, the ranking Democrat on the same House intelligence panel where Goss once presided, said she asked for a show of hands from those who understood where Goss was leading the agency. "The vast majority didn't know, and they are worried," Harman said in a telephone interview during her trip.
Some of the struggles that have dominated Goss's first year stem from a massive reorganization that stripped the CIA of its leadership role in the intelligence community and made it subservient to a new director of national intelligence. Congress ordered the shake-up after several public investigations blamed the CIA for failing to detect the Sept. 11, 2001, plot and erring in assessments of Iraq's weapons. The probes crippled morale inside the deeply secretive agency. Goss's staff says he is confident he can reshape the CIA and, despite persistent rumors, he has no intention of resigning. "Director Goss loves his job and is dedicated to the CIA team and his vision of modernizing and strengthening our numbers and capabilities across the board," his spokeswoman, Jennifer Millerwise Dyck, said. "He wants to see that through."
Several moves in recent weeks indicate Goss is trying to address the ill will, which has becoming increasingly public, between his office and career officials at the CIA.
He held an agency-wide meeting to discuss staff concerns last month and later announced that he would not seek to punish career analysts whose poor performances had been singled out in a classified and internal review of the agency's work leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks. "Risk is a critical part of the intelligence business," Goss said in a public statement that championed the CIA's successes. "Singling out these individuals would send the wrong message to our junior officers about taking risks." The statement went a long way to quell some of the unhappiness, officials said in interviews.
Harman's Republican counterpart argues that Goss needs to make significant changes, including among personnel, if the agency is to rebuild. "It's going to be very hard to get the change you need if you keep all the same players," said Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the committee chairman. "Yes, the agency needs to have good morale, but they need to have the right people in the right jobs, and I think that is exactly where Porter is moving to."
Taking over the agency at a turbulent time in its history would not have been an easy task for anyone. It was particularly difficult for Goss, an eight-term congressman who was close to the White House and who became fiercely critical of the CIA.