Lawmakers Divided on C.I.A. Chief's Leadership

International Herald Tribune

New York Times

November 15, 2004

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 - Amid reports of serious turmoil in the Central Intelligence Agency under the new leadership of Porter Goss, legislators differed sharply today over whether Mr. Goss was bringing needed change to what one Republican senator called a "dysfunctional" and a "rogue" agency or was, as a Democrat said, recklessly driving out capable intelligence veterans.

The controversy erupted as the Congress prepared to return for a post-election session under pressure to reach accord on legislation that would create the powerful post of national director of intelligence, a position for which Mr. Goss would presumably be a top candidate.

John McLaughlin, the agency's No. 2 official, announced his retirement on Friday. He described his retirement, which was expected, as a "purely personal decision."

But current and former intelligence officials said Mr. McLaughlin had warned Mr. Goss that tensions between the new director's staff and officials in the directorate of operations, the most powerful and secretive part of the agency, had reached a dangerous point, The New York Times reported.

Steven Kappes, deputy director of operations, has reportedly threatened to resign. Former C.I.A. officials said tensions in the agency were the worst they had seen in 25 years.

Today, Representative Jane Harman of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, squarely blamed Mr. Goss's staff - some of it brought along from the House, where he had headed that committee - for what she said were missteps in dealing with C.I.A. staff that could produce a "hemorrhage" of experienced officials.

But Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said the very reasons behind Mr. Goss's appointment to run the powerful agency after all its intelligence failures related to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the war in Iraq was undertaking deeply needed change.

"I think this kind of shakeup is absolutely necessary," Mr. McCain said on the ABC News program "This Week." "One thing that has become abundantly clear, if it wasn't already: this is a dysfunctional agency, and in some ways a rogue agency."

It was Mr. Goss's predecessor, George J. Tenet, who reportedly told President Bush that evidence that Iraq held unconventional weapons was a "slam dunk," or a sure thing, Mr. McCain said. And, the senator added, "We know very little more about North Korea and Iran than we did 10 years ago."

"This agency needs to be reformed," Mr. McCain said, adding, "Porter Goss is on the right track."

But Ms. Harman was particularly pointed in her criticism of Mr. Goss's staff.

"What's going on here, sadly, I think is mostly the product of a highly partisan, inexperienced staff that came over to the C.I.A. with Porter Goss," she said.

She called Mr. Goss "capable" and said he deserved a chance to make changes at the C.I.A.

But to do so, Ms. Harman added, he needed "an experienced staff, and he doesn't have one."

"Many of us worked with that staff in the House," she said. "Frankly, on both sides of the aisle in the committee, we were happy to see them go."

Another Democrat, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, said he hoped the friction in the C.I.A. was not caused by any attempt by Mr. Goss to take a more political approach to intelligence, something other Democratic critics of Mr. Goss had said they feared.

"If that's the issue," said Mr. Levin, a member of the intelligence committee, "then it seems to me that we've got to be very cautious."

Mr. Bush has set an intelligence overhaul as a second-term priority and has urged the House and the Senate to reconcile their differences on legislation.

A point of contention has been whether a new national intelligence director would wield budget control over the bulk of the far-flung United States intelligence community, or whether the Pentagon would keep decisive power over its own large intelligence operations.

Ms. Harman suggested that the resistance was coming largely from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

"The holdouts are a few members of the majority in the House," she said, "Republican members who are guided by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, who continues to oppose reform."

She suggested it was time for President Bush to tell Mr. Rumsfeld "to stand down."

"If that doesn't happen," Ms. Harman added, "the bill is dead."