In his sixth day on the job, CIA Director Porter J. Goss began making changes in the embattled agency's leadership, installing in top-level positions four staff members from the House intelligence committee, which he led for six years.
The moves sent a tremor through CIA headquarters at Langley, where officers already nervous about proposals to reorganize U.S. intelligence worried that Goss was acting too hastily. Some also expressed concern that newcomers from the Republican-run House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence would bring partisan sensibilities to their new roles.
Concerns about partisanship and the CIA have been at the forefront of public debate over the agency's future in the past weeks. During Goss's Senate confirmation hearings, Democrats repeatedly pressed him for guarantees, which he gave, that he would leave behind his history of partisan battling when he left Congress to take over the CIA. More recently, some Republican members of Congress and others have accused the CIA of writing and disclosing pessimistic assessments on Iraq to undermine President Bush in the midst of the campaign.
"My hope is they don't come in and do a wholesale change that would do damage to a strategic effort that has produced excellent work on terrorism and a variety of other important issues," said James L. Pavitt, who recently retired as the agency's deputy director of operations. "Does it make a lot of sense to set the place on its head at a time when the nation is under a multitude of threats? They need to listen and learn first."
Yesterday, Goss named as his executive director -- the third-ranking spot at the agency -- Michael V. Kostiw, who most recently has served as staff director of the House committee's terrorism subcommittee. Before that he was a lobbyist for ChevronTexaco Corp. and was at CIA for 10 years in the 1970s and 1980s.
At yesterday's morning staff meeting, the current executive director, A.B. "Buzzy" Krongard, announced he was leaving after 61/2 years at the agency. Krongard, a former investment banker, was brought in by former CIA director George J. Tenet to improve management at the agency. Goss, in a statement released yesterday, described Krongard as having brought "energy, dedication and a wealth of new ideas to the agency" and said his efforts "will be remembered."
Goss also named Patrick Murray, the House committee's staff director, to be his chief of staff and Jay Jakub and Merrell Moorhead, two other committee staffers, as special assistants. Moorhead is to deal with strategic planning and Jakub with operations and analysis, according to a senior administration official.
Jakub, who worked as an analyst at the agency before he joined the committee, was staff director of the panel's subcommittee on human intelligence and one of the authors of a highly critical report on the CIA's human intelligence operations.
In the last several years, the House intelligence committee has developed a reputation among some members of Congress and national security agencies for ineffectiveness -- a source of concern yesterday at CIA headquarters. The panel was unable to produce a promised report on prewar intelligence on Iraq and often focused on issues that seemed tangential to the main problems facing the intelligence community, officials complained. In contrast to its counterpart committee in the Senate, the House panel conducted few oversight investigations and held few open hearings. Some committee staff members also had rough working relations with the CIA's leadership and its Directorate of Operations, a small but powerful group within the CIA.
"It's going to cause serious angst at the agency because of the poor relations they have had with the CIA," said Howard Hart, former senior clandestine services officer. "These people will have no credibility in the agency because of their past performance on the House intelligence committee staff."
Another former intelligence officer said: "It looks as though he is installing people known to be partisan politicos and that may have a stifling effect on the staff. When you parachute in with a whole raft of people right away, it doesn't bode well."
"There is great concern about the migration of Hill staffers to the agency because it creates a clash of cultures," another former senior CIA official said yesterday, describing his conversations with agency personnel over the past few days. "Hill people have a loyalty to an individual, not to the institution," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is still in government and is not authorized to speak publicly.
The former official added that during Goss's first week in office the new director has given some the impression that "there is an inner circle" because he has not regularly attended the 8:30 a.m. staff meeting, but has held a meeting with his own staffers.
An administration official familiar with the transition, however, stressed that Goss had just begun.
"It is unfair to draw such conclusions at this time," the official said. Goss, he said, was not at the agency for two days this week, having flown Monday to Florida, where he visited his home after Hurricane Jeanne, and returning Tuesday evening.
There have been similar concerns and anxieties at CIA headquarters when previous directors of central intelligence from outside the agency took over. In 1995, when John M. Deutch became director, he brought in several former Democratic Hill staff members, including Tenet from the Senate committee, who would rise to become director, retiring last August after seven years in that post.