CIA Director Porter J. Goss threw a wake yesterday.
With eight former intelligence chiefs at his side, including former president George H.W. Bush, Goss honored the influential and powerful position they have all held: director of central intelligence, a job that no longer exists.
The post was officially taken away from Goss two months ago and promptly abolished. Since then, the former Florida congressman has been in charge only of the CIA, and not the rest of the intelligence community, as he had been when he was sworn in almost a year ago.
John D. Negroponte, who took over the DCI's responsibilities of briefing the president and coordinating the country's 15 intelligence agencies under the newly created title of director of national intelligence, did not attend the party at the CIA's headquarters in Langley. Goss's office could not remember whether he had been invited. Negroponte's office said he would not have made it anyway because he was traveling.
Along with Goss, the former DCIs at yesterday's private event were Bush, James R. Schlesinger, retired Adm. Stansfield Turner, William H. Webster, Robert M. Gates, R. James Woolsey, John M. Deutch and George J. Tenet. Cynthia Helms, the widow of Richard M. Helms, and Barbara Colby, the widow of William E. Colby, also attended the gathering in the agency's cafeteria, which began with an hour-long ceremony commemorating the service of the former DCIs.
"This was a chance for the men and women of the CIA to celebrate the rich history and the contributions of the CIA and the DCI," said Goss's spokeswoman, Jennifer Millerwise.
The CIA's chief historian delivered the keynote address, and the former directors and the widows received medallions. Millerwise said the agency will begin awarding service medals annually, in honor of the former DCIs, to employees who "demonstrate outstanding leadership skills in the area of innovation."
The event was attended by nearly 2,000 employees, she said, who had an opportunity to meet some of the former agency chiefs afterward. It was the first time Goss, a former CIA spy who became the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, had been in a room with eight predecessors.
Last year, Congress ordered a vast reorganization of the intelligence community largely in response to recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission. The panel said lack of coordination among the various intelligence agencies played a role in the U.S. failure to thwart the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The restructuring abolished the position of DCI, stripping Goss of the daily access to the White House and the control over the community that he and his predecessors had enjoyed.
The move, resisted by the former DCIs, signaled the end of the CIA's nearly 60-year run as the undisputed center of power and influence in the secret world of intelligence.
"Those are significant changes, and I am sure there is some sense of loss and change at the agency," said Peter Earnest, executive director of the International Spy Museum and a former CIA spy. "But the agency has a deep history, and maybe they can celebrate that today, too."