C.I.A. Churning Continues as 2 Top Officials Resign

By DOUGLAS JEHL

New York Times

November 16, 2004

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15 - The head of the Central Intelligence Agency's clandestine service and his deputy both resigned their posts on Monday, effective immediately, becoming the most significant casualties of an effort by Porter J. Goss to overhaul the agency's spying operations.

The officials, Stephen R. Kappes, the deputy director for operations, and Michael Sulick, the associate deputy director, announced their moves at a morning staff meeting after days of clashes with advisers to Mr. Goss, the new director of the agency, intelligence officials said. Mr. Goss said in a written statement that the two men had "formally advised that they are stepping down.''

Mr. Goss has selected a covert officer who runs the agency's Counterterrorism Center to become the new chief of the clandestine service, known as the directorate of operations, the officials said. They declined to name the officer, a former chief of American espionage operations in Latin America, because he is still under cover. They said he had been chosen despite having been removed from the Latin American post in 1997 after a C.I.A. inspector general's report criticized him for "a remarkable lack of judgment.'' At the time, many at the C.I.A. considered his removal to be unwarranted.

Mr. Kappes and Mr. Sulick are highly regarded within the C.I.A. Their departures, which prompted loud protests from former intelligence officials, suggest that Mr. Goss is confident of having a mandate from the White House to make sweeping changes. The resignations of other senior officials within the operations directorate may follow, the former officials said.

In his statement, Mr. Goss promised that "there will no gap in our operations fighting the global war on terror, nor in any of our other vital activities.''

The officer designated by Mr. Goss to take over the operations directorate was stripped of his Latin America post for attempting to intervene on behalf of a boyhood friend who had been arrested on narcotics charges in the Dominican Republic. An intelligence official noted that Mr. Goss had chosen him "in full knowledge'' of that episode, saying, "The guy served his time in the penalty box, and he went on to do good things.''

Mr. Goss said that the newly designated clandestine services chief had "a long history of strong performance in senior management positions, both domestically and abroad, most recently leading our agency's critical efforts against the terrorist target.''

With tensions between the C.I.A.'s new leadership and senior career officials still extraordinarily high, senior members of Congress appeared sharply divided in their view about whether Mr. Goss was going too far in reshaping the C.I.A. after a series of intelligence failures on Iraq and terrorism.

Representative Jane Harman of California, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, called the moves unwarranted, and warned that they could well ignite an "implosion" within the C.I.A. But Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said he believed that Mr. Goss should do "whatever is necessary" to clean house at the agency.

In an interview, Mr. McCain said he told President Bush last week that "the C.I.A. was dysfunctional and unaccountable and that they refused to change." The senator said he believed the C.I.A. had acted as a "rogue agency" in recent months by leaking information about the war in Iraq that was seen as detrimental to Mr. Bush and his re-election campaign.

Since before the American invasion in 2003, the White House has regarded the C.I.A. as too cautious about Mr. Bush's plan to wage war in Iraq. The tensions between the agency and the White House grew particularly sharp this summer after news reports disclosed the existence of a new National Intelligence Estimate that portrayed a dark future for Iraq in the coming 18 months.

But Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a Republican on the Intelligence Committee, said he was concerned about the impact of the moves by Mr. Goss.

"There's no question when a new leader comes into an organization, there are adjustments made, and people leave," Mr. Hagel said in a telephone interview. But he added: "We have to be careful here that we don't lose an entire top tier of senior experienced C.I.A. operatives and managers. I've got some questions why these people have left, how many more are going to leave, and whether it's a personality conflict or a policy conflict. If we find ourselves without a senior group of C.I.A. hands, that would certainly not enhance American security and might undermine our security."

Mr. Hagel said that he and other members of the Senate Intelligence Committee would seek answers to those questions in closed meetings this week.

Mr. Kappes and Mr. Sulick threatened to resign last week after clashes with Patrick Murray, a former House Republican official who is Mr. Goss's chief of staff and whom they regarded as undermining their authority, former intelligence officials said. The men agreed to reconsider their decision over the weekend, intelligence officials said, but there was no indication that either Mr. Goss or the White House had tried to persuade them to stay on.

Even before those clashes, Mr. Goss had begun to sound out the Counterterrorism Center chief and other candidates to take over the clandestine service, former intelligence officials said.

The departures will leave Jami A. Miscik, the deputy director for intelligence, and Donald M. Kerr, the deputy director for science and technology, as the highest-ranking members still in place from the team of George J. Tenet, who stepped down as director of central intelligence in July.

The C.I.A. said that Mr. Kappes and Mr. Sulick planned to retire, but would first join the agency's Career Transition Program. In that program, they will join John E. McLaughlin, the deputy director of central intelligence, who announced his resignation on Friday, effective Dec. 2, and at least four other senior officials who held high-level posts under Mr. Tenet. A. B. Krongard, the No. 3 official under Mr. Tenet, was dismissed in September by Mr. Goss.

As deputy director for operations, Mr. Kappes had been in charge of the agency's spying and other covert operations worldwide. He is a former marine who spent more than 20 years at the C.I.A., serving as station chief in Moscow and a Middle Eastern capital. Before assuming the post in August, when he succeeded James L. Pavitt, Mr. Kappes was Mr. Pavitt's principal deputy.

Mr. Sulick had been associate deputy for counterintelligence under Mr. Pavitt, and moved up to become Mr. Kappes's principal deputy.

In an interview, Ms. Harman, the Congressional Democrat, said that she believed Mr. Goss had placed too much authority in a small cadre of former House Republican aides, including Mr. Murray, whom the new intelligence chief has installed as senior advisers. "I don't begrudge him the right to make changes,'' Ms. Harman said. "I don't begrudge him the right to bring some of his own people to the agency. What I'm criticizing is that he has an all-new management team that has a reputation as partisan and inexperienced, and it is clearly generating an enormous reaction that is not beneficial to the agency and to the war on terrorism.''

Senator Bob Graham of Florida, a Democrat who is close to Mr. Goss, said in a separate interview that Mr. Goss was "driven by the right motivations'' in overhauling the agency's top management. "There are lots of problems within the intelligence agencies, and those are not going to be solved by papering them over and without taking the bold steps necessary.''

But Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, issued a statement that called on Mr. Goss to "take immediate steps to stabilize the situation at the C.I.A.''

"There is no doubt that changes needed to take place at the C.I.A., and people should be held accountable for past failures,'' Mr. Rockefeller said in the statement. "However, the departure of highly respected and competent individuals at such a crucial time is a grave concern.'' He added: "The C.I.A. workforce must understand where he is taking the agency and why, and he must provide some explanation for this rash of departures among senior officials."