President Bush nominated Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.), a CIA officer-turned-politician, as director of central intelligence.

Key Senate Democrats indicated they would not oppose Goss outright but would question his independence at a time when the prewar intelligence on Iraq and the failure to thwart the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have become sore subjects for the White House.

The nomination was in part an attempt by Bush to demonstrate leadership on intelligence as it becomes a defining factor of the campaign. Two weeks ago, the White House said it was in no hurry to find a permanent replacement for acting CIA Director John E. McLaughlin. But since then, Bush's Democratic challenger, Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), has gained ground in public opinion polls for embracing all the reforms urged by the Sept. 11 commission and for challenging Bush to act. By naming Goss, chairman of the House intelligence committee, Bush hopes to counter charges that he has been inattentive, and to gain a loyal leader.

Goss becomes the nominee at a time of historic demands on the intelligence community, with an elevated terrorist threat level in three cities, a high-tempo hunt for al Qaeda around the world and a boiling insurgency in Iraq.

Goss, 65, recently introduced legislation to greatly elevate the authority of the CIA and its director, giving the chief the budgetary and personnel power over all 15 intelligence agencies -- an approach that bears similarities to the Sept. 11 commission's proposal. Bush supports naming a national intelligence director but opposes granting that person spending and hiring-and-firing authority.

Goss served as a CIA case officer for nine years during the Cold War, recruiting spies in Central America and Western Europe. After retirement, he became a newspaper publisher and politician, and he was elected to the House in 1988.

-- Dana Priest and Mike Allen

Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.), left, nominated to be the next CIA director, talks to Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, before a hearing of the House intelligence committee about recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission.