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Saturday, May 06, 2006

Hayden go seek

Comes now the word from on high that Porter Goss didn't leave the CIA of his own accord. I'm sure this comes as a surprise to precisely four people, three of whom are in irreversible comas.

Also making news is the well-leaked "rumor" that President Bush's choice to replace Goss will be General Michael Hayden, the former head of the NSA and current deputy to Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte.

The Washington Post reports that despite the mutual lovefest between Bush and Goss at today's press conference, senior adminstration officials say the President "had lost confidence in Goss, 67, almost from the beginning and decided months ago to replace him." Goss was apparently given the news that he would be resigning in an April meeting with Negroponte, who under the new intel chain of command was Goss' boss.

"There has been an open conversation for a few weeks, through Negroponte, with the acknowledgment of the president" about replacing Goss, said a senior White House official who discussed the internal deliberations on the condition of anonymity. Another senior White House official said Goss had always been viewed as a "transitional figure" who would leave by year's end. His departure was accelerated when Bush shook up his White House staff in hopes of beginning a political turnaround.

With the creation of the DNI post, the CIA director's job was substantially diminished, even to the point of no longer being referred to as the Director of Central Intelligence. Sources told WaPo that turf battles between the two men, once good friends (and fraternity brothers for life), resulted in Negroponte bad mouthing Goss to the President:

Negroponte replaced Goss in presiding over the president's daily intelligence briefing, and he worked to bring CIA personnel and some of its analytical functions into his growing operations. Those steps quickly put him at odds with his friend. Privately, Goss's associates said the two men clashed with increasing frequency in recent months, and they blamed Negroponte for hurting Goss's reputation with the president.

But administration officials said Goss never forged a strong relationship with Bush. "It just didn't click," one official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Goss's reserved personality and inability to master details of intelligence activities dampened the atmosphere of the president's morning intelligence briefing, which had been a central feature of the close relationship between Bush and Tenet. In one of his early interviews, Goss complained that he was spending hours preparing for the Oval Office sessions.

"Once Negroponte came in and Porter was no longer doing the president's daily briefings, he lost the opportunity to build the kind of relationship with the president that other directors had," said Mark Lowenthal, who was a senior adviser to Tenet and briefly to Goss before leaving the agency in March 2005.

As noted in an earlier post, Goss had his own problems within the CIA, where despite his past as a covert operative for the Agency, he was viewed by many as a partisan hack:

In Goss's first days in office, his appointment of Michael Kostiw as executive director ended after it became public that Kostiw had been forced to leave the CIA under a cloud 20 years earlier. The subsequent search at the agency to find who leaked the information about Kostiw's past led the top two officers in the agency's clandestine service to resign in protest.

Kostiw's replacement, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, is the subject of a review by the CIA's inspector general. The agency is examining whether Foggo arranged for any contracts to be granted to companies associated with Brent R. Wilkes, a contractor and longtime friend of Foggo's who had connections to Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.).

Cunningham left Congress and was sentenced to more than eight years in prison for corruption. Foggo has said he has done nothing improper, and the agency has said the review is standard practice in such situations, not an indication of any wrongdoing. After Goss's announcement yesterday, Foggo told colleagues that he will resign next week. Last week, the agency confirmed that Foggo attended private poker games with Wilkes at a Washington hotel.

Over Goss's 18 months, more than a dozen senior officials -- several of whom were promoted under Goss -- resigned, retired early or requested reassignment. Robert Richer, who was head of the Near East division, served less than a year as the No. 2 official in the clandestine service before quitting in frustration over Goss's leadership last November. Richer then spent several days privately sharing his concerns with senior congressional leaders and Negroponte.

In the clandestine service alone, Goss lost one director, two deputy directors and at least a dozen department heads, station chiefs and division directors, many with the key language skills and experience he has said the agency needs. The agency is on its third counterterrorism chief since Goss arrived.

Good night, and good riddance.

General Hayden, a staunch defender of Bush's electronic eavesdropping program, faces problems of his own in seeking to replace Goss:

Members of Congress privately predicted that Hayden, who once enjoyed tremendous support on the Hill, would face a contentious confirmation process over the Bush administration's domestic spying program. Other sensitive issues, such as the existence of secret prisons abroad for terrorism suspects, also are likely to arise.

"The calculus is that would be true about anybody at this point. Given all the other stuff, like secret prisons, the confirmation is going to be tough for anybody," a senior administration official said.

Time magazine, which broke the Hayden story, quotes one member of Congress as promising a "partisan food fight" over Hayden's expected nomination.
It was Hayden who appeared in the White House briefing room in December to defend a highly classified National Security Agency program that includes interception of domestic phone calls and e-mail messages without warrants if one of the parties has known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. Hayden said at the National Press Club in January: "It is not a driftnet over Dearborn or Lackawanna or Freemont grabbing conversations that we then sort out by these alleged keyword searches or data-mining tools or other devices that so-called experts keep talking about. This is targeted and focused."

The senior administration official said Hayden was chosen for the job for his "natural leadership qualities" and his "decades of experience in the intelligence community." "He's been a customer of it, he's been a producer of it," the official said. Hayden, who entered active duty in 1969 and is the highest-ranking military intelligence officer in the armed forces, has been Director of the National Security Agency, Commander of the Air Intelligence Agency and Director of the Joint Command and Control Warfare Center. Hayden has bachelor's and master's degrees from Duquesne University. His first assignment was in January 1970 as an analyst and briefer at the headquarters of the Strategic Air Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. That was a classic Cold War post, and he now will be in charge of helping a glamorous but struggling part of the government adapt to a very different world.

According to the Post, another potential candidate to replace Goss is Mary Margaret Graham, who currently coordinates the collection of intelligence for Negroponte. She had transferred from the CIA due to repeated clashes with Goss' staff.

It's no secret that something is still very broken within the intelligence apparatus of this country. (Negroponte himself has more than his fair share of detractors who think he's not strong willed enough for his position.) The question is, is Hayden the right person to start the healing?

By all accounts, he is a man of fierce intelligence (no pun intended) and a natural born leader. He is well-respected within the intelligence community, and should command the loyalty of operatives in ways that Goss never could. Additionally, he was well thought of on both sides of the aisle in Congress until he became the point man for the defense of what some view as Bush's overreaching in the area of electronic surveillance of American citizens. My guess is that he'll be confirmed as CIA director after an Alito-like hearing process in which his knowledge, experience and conviction will combine to make his detractors look petty and foolish. (I'm not saying this is necessarily the case, just that this is how it will appear.)

As they say in the news business, one thing is for certain: he can't be worse than Goss.

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