The Fix-It Man Leaves, but The Agency's Cracks Remain

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By Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 6, 2006

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.

In public, Goss once acknowledged being "amazed at the workload." 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."

As a result of all these factors, said these sources and outside experts who work with the CIA, the number of case officers has skyrocketed, but there has been no dramatic improvement in how spies collect intelligence about terrorist targets.

As important, Goss -- who did not like to travel overseas or to wine and dine foreign intelligence chiefs who visited Washington -- allowed the atrophy of relations with the foreign intelligence services that helped the CIA kill or catch nearly all the terrorists taken off the streets since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, in the view of these officials and several foreign intelligence officials.

Foreign intelligence heads, who used to spend hours with Goss's predecessor, George J. Tenet, discussing strategy and tactics, are now more likely to meet with the director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte, whose position was created in the overhaul of U.S. intelligence agencies.

One senior European counterterrorism official, asked recently for his assessment of Goss's leadership, responded by saying, "Who?"

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.

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© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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