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A Year Later, Goss's CIA Is Still in Turmoil
Shortly before he was nominated for the job, Goss co-authored a scathing indictment of the agency and its popular director, George J. Tenet. In a letter to the agency in May 2004, Goss and several congressional colleagues focused particular wrath on the clandestine service and human intelligence.
"After years of trying to convince, suggest, urge, entice, cajole, and pressure CIA to make wide-reaching changes to the way it conducts its HUMINT mission," the CIA "continues down a road leading over a proverbial cliff. The damage to the HUMINT mission through its misallocation and redirection of resources, poor prioritization of objectives, micromanagement of field operations, and a continued political aversion to operational risk is, in the Committee's judgment, significant and could likely be long-lasting."
Goss declined to be interviewed. But some of his close allies say the letter, which they believe he regrets in tone, if not substance, has haunted his first year and accounts for much of the strain between Goss and the clandestine service. "The letter is a pretty clear indication that he didn't expect to get the job," one official said.
Goss, who turns 67 in November, had been preparing to retire from public service and spend more time on a family farm in Virginia when he was asked by Vice President Cheney to stay on as House intelligence chairman after the 2001 attacks. When Tenet resigned in the summer of 2004, Goss was nominated to succeed the longest-serving director in CIA history.
At the time, Congress was working through details of a dramatic refashioning of the bureaucratic landscape, in which a new intelligence czar would oversee not just the CIA but also all intelligence offices in the U.S. government. Goss did not know whether he would eventually become the new director of national intelligence or end up focusing solely on the CIA.
"Porter took over the agency at an extremely difficult time, when his job was going to change fundamentally and the agency's role in the community was going to change," said Mark Lowenthal, a senior manager hired by Tenet. He left the CIA six months into Goss's term; the two have remained friends. "It was a hard time to become director," he said.
Goss divided his attention between the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community. In March, President Bush chose as DNI John D. Negroponte, a career foreign service officer and ambassador in Iraq. Negroponte's office is still taking shape, and it is unclear how much control he will exert over the CIA.
But the days of an all-powerful CIA director who reports exclusively to the president are over. Goss no longer has daily access to the Oval Office -- Negroponte is now responsible for briefing the president -- and Goss must coordinate all decisions with Negroponte's office.
From Critic to Champion
Through memos and the recent staff meeting, Goss has tried to assure employees that he has made the transition from critic to champion and that the CIA will remain the country's preeminent intelligence-gathering agency. "CIA is the gold standard when it comes to human intelligence collection," he told the staff in a recent agency-wide meeting.
Among his top priorities is getting spies in the field to work more independently and to rely less on complicated relationships with foreign intelligence services. Some veterans have interpreted that push as either a disinclination to work with others or a rejection of a collection method that is highly valued inside the clandestine service. But Goss believes the agency has leaned too heavily, sometimes to its detriment, on faulty information gleaned from others.
Goss, who served as a CIA operative in Latin America in the 1960s, is also eager to reopen stations there so the agency is prepared when conflicts arise in otherwise quiet areas. That desire has been welcomed even by his critics, but some argue it is still too early in the struggle with al Qaeda to begin moving resources elsewhere.
"The CIA is like a lot of other bureaucracies," said former senator Bob Graham (D-Fla.), a friend of Goss's. "They don't like change and are somewhere between resistant and noncooperative."