Saturday, May 06, 2006

Another Short Chapter: D/CIA Porter Goss

By Melissa Boyle Mahle


President Bush announced the resignation of D/CIA Porter Goss Friday afternoon. There was little in explanation in answer to why and why now. First I would note that Friday afternoon CIA news is getting to be routine. Maybe the mainstream press goes to bed for the weekend, but not the blogosphere. So by Monday morning, the tone of the commentary will already be set.

Why Resign?

This folks is Washington accountability. We have called for it. Prayed for it. And finally are seeing it. Goss was sent to the CIA to turn around a big ship that was lost in the storm post 9/11. He arrived as the Director of Central Intelligence and left heading a much smaller portfolio of Director of the CIA. Despite a whittling down of his job description, he never took control of the ship.

We should be fair. Goss arrived with a reform agenda. The CIA is terribly resistant to reform. Early mis-steps, however, resulted in a lack of trust between the Seventh Floor and the rest of the organization. We all know that if you don’t trust somebody, you will not agree to be led down a long dark alley way to an unknown destination on the basis of “orders from above”. So, Goss got a lot of push back when he presented his vision for reform.

What Goss wanted to do was to transform basic structures on how the CIA did its business. Henceforth, the CIA would integrate internally and externally. The Directorate of Operations transformed in name to the National Clandestine Services (NCS), but senior managers resisted the vision because ultimately they were not to be part of it. No, they would not lose their jobs, but their career would no longer be the model for success. The terms of reference would be so different, what kind of jobs offered prestige, what meant success, who would influence and shape the new path, they would become bit players, has-beens of another age.

So we saw resignations of senior officials, falling on their swords to prevent Goss from “ruining” the service. We saw a lot of fireworks about the Gosslings (staff surrounding Goss), on how disrespectful there were of seasoned officers. We saw a hemorrhage of mid-level officers leaving the CIA for greener pastures at DOD. We saw growing criticism from outside, questioning why Goss was not transforming the Agency along the lines of his vision. Finally, we saw greater discussion of perhaps the better way was to break up the CIA, so that it could be a HUMINT agency and really specialize. Goss resisted this, maybe his Case Officer instincts or political antenna told him to do so. Breaking up the CIA is the first step to abolishing it.

So, a critical mass of misdeeds, poor performance and growing disappointment, probably shared by Goss, led to the resignation.

Why Now?

There has been much speculation in the press that there was a triggering event. This may be true. However, I would note that there have rumors for months now that Goss wanted to resign.

There has been speculation that his resignation was related to a growing internal scandal that threatens to implicate a senior CIA official, Dusty Foggo, in a corruption scandal connected to the bribery case of former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham. Did Goss fall on his sword to protect Foggo from being fired? Personally, I doubt it. Goss is not the kind of guy that falls on his sword to protect a controversial figure inside the NCS. The firing of Foggo would stir internal criticism, especially coming on the heels of the firing of Mary McCarthy, but I don’t think it would have been a uniting issue for the work force that would have caused a mutiny, particularly within the NCS.

I suspect the timing has to do with politics. Bolton is hard at work putting together a new team for the Bush Administration that will take it through to the end of the term. Bolton is taking rapid action because time is short; the mid-term elections are just a few months away. Since Goss was not expected to stay on, now was the time to leave.

What Next?

There is a lot of speculation on who will be the next head of the CIA. Interestingly, the press is reporting that it will likely be General Hayden, the Deputy Director for National Intelligence. When the ODNI was set up, I doubt that anyone thought of it as the spawning ground for IC agency chiefs, but it may very well have this function.

What the CIA really needs in its next leader is a non-political, strong leader, with influence. Hayden could provide this. He has a military background, which is always a plus—look at the history of who has populated senior positions at the CIA. He is a strong leader and has a reputation for doing well in hard jobs. He is a technical guy, which might be a problem for the NCS. It reminds me of the DCI Deutch years. Deutch did not value HUMINT as much as he did technical collection. He put at the head of the DO someone who did not really understand the DO, or think it particularly special. It was not a very good time for DO officers. This will be something to watch if indeed Gen. Hayden in anointed.

Other names from the ODNI are being floated as well. Personally, I think Hayden is the best bet. Anyone coming from the ODNI will have the ear of DNI Negroponte, which will strengthen the new structure.

All in all, I see this transition in a positive light. Goss was not working out. Here is a chance to get it right, re-invigorate the CIA, right-set morale and get everybody back to the business at hand: building the most capable IC.

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