Facing criticism both inside his agency and from Capitol Hill for a lack of vision and leadership, CIA Director Porter J. Goss yesterday outlined his plans for expanding CIA's spying and analytical operations overseas while cutting back on the bureaucracy at headquarters.
In an unusual town hall meeting for his staff, Goss said he is going to send more case officers and analysts abroad and put "a refreshed emphasis on the CIA as a global agency," according to a prepared text of his remarks. That would mean, he said, locating agency personnel not only "in places that [policymakers] need us to be today . . . but where they may need us to be tomorrow."
He said he will expect and encourage "calculated risk taking," a sensitive subject for agency personnel who have been accused of being risk-averse by the independent 9/11 commission and by members of the House and Senate intelligence committees. Saying he expected risky efforts to "go right," he added that he knows "it won't go right all the time. And when it goes wrong, I will support you."
Goss also made clear that sending more people overseas will also mean moving agency officers and analysts out of embassies and under cover, no longer guaranteeing them diplomatic immunity if they are caught spying. "We are definitely going to be using new cover arrangements overseas, because we have to," he said.
Reflecting criticism he made as a House member of the practice of pulling CIA officers out of stations around the world to serve short terms in Iraq, Goss said that "surging CIA officers, instead of having an established presence, an expertise, and developed relationships at hand, is a poor formula."
"We are not in all of the places we should be," he said, adding, "We don't have this luxury anymore. . . . We are going to be in places people can't even imagine."
Goss's talk, which came on the one-year anniversary of his taking over the agency, reflected many of the positions he and his top aides took when he was chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. It also followed the departure of many senior members of the clandestine service, including most recently, Robert Richer, the service's second-ranking officer and a more than 30-year veteran with Middle East experience.
Goss reassured the clandestine service that the "CIA remains the flagship of the intelligence community for HUMINT [human intelligence]."
He praised the analysts in the agency's Directorate of Intelligence, saying, "Analysis is the engine that drives the CIA; in my view, it is analysis that must drive collection." He said competitive analyses will be encouraged. "We are not afraid to publish opposing perspectives, if they exist. This gives policymakers more with which to work."
Addressing widely voiced complaints within the agency that President Bush, Vice President Cheney and other top administration officials either misused or ignored intelligence, Goss cautioned, "We must not lose sight of the notion that our policymakers are not obligated to accept at face value any intelligence estimate we put before them. And they are not required to follow it."
He also dealt with published criticism that he has avoided sessions with visiting heads of foreign intelligence services by turning them over to subordinates. "As many of you know," Goss said, "I have been very pleased to spend a lot of my time and attention on a multitude of liaison relationships . . . and I will continue to do so." But he added that he wanted the agency to make its own, unilateral operations the "governing paradigm."
Asked during the question period about Richer's retirement, Goss denied that his private talk with the departing veteran was as confrontational as it was described in news stories, according to reports from people who were at the meeting.