Saturday, May 06, 2006

A brief comment on the departure of Porter Goss:

Goss meant well and worked very hard but he was caught between a rock and a hard place after the Intel reform bill.

The CIA career senior management ( above station chief level) who were fired/resigned since Goss arrived as DCI are usually portrayed as " anti-Bush", technically that is true but their motivations did not originally come from partisan politics. They are the generation of the Pike-Church hearings and the Schlessinger-Turner DCI era and as a matter of professional practice are exceptionally risk-averse. They don't like HUMINT, they don't like covert ops, they don't like bold judgments in NIE documents and they employ lawyers at every step of the process to ensure that nothing actually gets accomplished.

It was inevitable that this bureaucratic cohort was going to oppose a forward role in the war for the CIA or a revitalization of covert ops. They dragged their feet in the Clinton era when that administration wanted action but clashing sharply with the Bush agenda was a given, though the levels of rearguard intrigue these employees mounted against administration policy was unprecedented in American history. Firing the malcontents was the best service Goss rendered during his tenure as DCI as covert intelligence agencies really can't be in the business of sabotaging the directives of their democratically elected superiors.

The intel reform bill that created the DNI position was also a recipe for bureaucratic conflict since it more or less took the DCI role away from the DCI while leaving the DNI line of authority exceptionally vague. Negroponte, moreover, is a very smooth, very effective, troubleshooter who has been involved in the intersection of the covert ops, diplomacy and military intervention since the 80's. Success here as DNI meant steamrolling over Goss and establishing the authority of DNI over the IC, so that is what Negroponte did. He simply outclassed Goss by several orders of magnitude as a bureaucratic insider and did not have any baggage to defend or distractions weighing him down that hobbled Goss ( the fact that Goss was reportedly spending up to 5 hours a day on the PDB was a sign that there were major problems happening, the DCI should briefly do the " final edit" not be deeply involved in drafting the PDB itself) .

The only way the DCI-NDI relationship will work is if the DCI becomes effectively the DNI's main deputy for HUMINT as the NSA head is for SIGINT which is why Hayden is going to be the new DCI, he's already in the deputy position and owes the CIA bureaucracy nothing ( unlike Goss who had, despite his feuds, deep institutional loyalties).


Colonel Lang's view.

I'm pretty sure the DIA was already freelancing HUMINT to some degree during the 90's due to the total disinterest of the Clinton administration in the IC and their general incomprehension of how the Defense Department functioned. Rumsfeld is simply greatly expanding on a precedent.


This could not have helped either. Guess Earl was on to something.


Ultraconnected David Ignatius at The Washington Post has released a new meme of Porter Goss as the Les Aspin of the IC:

"What may have hurt Goss most inside the White House was sharp criticism from a hush-hush group known as the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. This blue-ribbon group is headed by Stephen Friedman, a former chairman of Goldman Sachs and former White House economic adviser. Because its members include many prominent business executives, the board could offer a nonpartisan, CEO's view of how Goss was running the agency. I'm told some of the board's judgments on Goss and his management team were devastating."

This very well may be true but I think the abrupt timing of Goss' departure was his choice, not the administration's and everything including the kitchen sink is going to be thrown at the man. As an aside, I like having figures with experience in international markets on the PFIAB but I'd be uncomfortable of that is the entirety of the membership.


Bloggers commenting on Goss/CIA:


Captain's Quarters

Kevin Drum

The Glittering Eye


Nadezhda New !

You forgot to specify, "Air Force General Hayden". An intel guy too.
hi Sonny

The NSA chief is by default always one of the smarter general or flag officers in their time.
Afraid I really find these kinds of comments hard to credit, they sound party political and don't match my sensation from the folks I knew.

Of course they were field people and they've all left that service in the past three years.
Hi Col -

Field people are a totally different kettle of fish - I have the utmost respect for them as a group. I'm speaking about the very senior bureaucrats who ran the agency, not the Milt Bearden types who ran clandestine operations out in God knows where.

Of the recent ex-CIA author turned pundits, Scheuer, who is no cheerleader for the administration, has a much harsher view of his former superiors than I do. Ditto for Baer. Their complaints are not new, they have been dribbling out for over a decade, really since at least the early 90's.

If you want " non -party" commentary, Goss, for his part, could not cut it as DCI ( I have no idea if this poker scandal involves him or if he is simply being tarnished) even though he had the luxury of an enormous surge of funding, something few appointees sent in to " clean house" enjoy. Bush is at fault for not clarifying what he wants his DCI and DNI to actually do ( titles are meaningless here, what matters is "juice" which is why Negroponte is not another " drug czar" and Goss is out) Or more obscure posts like the Counterintelligence executive who has also been given the boot ( or is about to, I have not checked).

So, the CIA is a mess. It might weather this crisis through institutional inertia or it might be pulled apart by Negroponte. When bureaucracies are too resistant to change it is easier for administrations to simply build new ones.
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