Jewish World Review August 13, 2004 / 26 Menachem-Av, 5764

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Goss has had both a worm's eye view of the intelligence business, and a bird's eye view | To be effective, the Director of Central Intelligence must know the world, the intelligence community, and the ways of Washington. So it is hard to imagine how President Bush could have made a better choice for CIA director than Porter Goss.

Goss, 65, spent two years in Army intelligence, and another eight in the CIA's Operations Directorate, before a serious illness forced him to retire in 1970.

Goss has spent 16 years in Congress, the last eight as chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, which has oversight over the CIA and the other 14 agencies which make up the intelligence community.

So Goss has had both a worm's eye view of the intelligence business, and a bird's eye view. Few in or out of Washington have had both perspectives. And of the handful who have, only Goss has the confidence of the president, or his connections on Capitol Hill.

Still, Goss has plenty of detractors. Many Democrats say he is "too partisan" because he criticized John Kerry for seeking deep cuts in the intelligence budget prior to 9/11.

"I believe that the selection of a politician — any politician from either party — is a mistake," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WVa), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "Porter Goss will have to answer tough questions about his record and his position on reform."

Funny. Neither Rockefeller or any other Democrat raised that objection when George Tenet, formerly the chief Democratic staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee, was selected as DCI by President Clinton.

Several prominent conservatives also expressed disappointment in the selection of Goss. As a former CIA officer and a Washington insider, Goss is, they think, unlikely to make the sweeping changes they deem necessary at the CIA.

Donate to JWR

"I was looking for (Bush to choose) someone from outside, like (Texas Tech basketball coach) Bobby Knight or (former New York mayor Rudy) Giuliani," said Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute, who writes frequently on intelligence matters.

I share Ledeen's view that changing the culture at the CIA is critical to improving intelligence collection and analysis. But I don't think Goss — who issued a report harshly critical of the agency last year — will become a captive of the CIA bureaucracy. And I don't think the middle of a war is the time for on the job training, even for someone as capable as Rudy Giuliani.

Ledeen's colleague at AEI, James Lilley, a career CIA clandestine services officer before becoming ambassador first to South Korea, and then to China, thinks Bush made a good choice.

"I know Porter Goss," Lilley said. "He knows the business. He's been a successful businessman and a successful politician and a good case officer."

A virtue from Bush's perspective is that Goss likely can more easily be confirmed by the Senate than any of the candidates grumbling conservatives preferred. Though Rockefeller and other Democrats have criticized Goss, he has been endorsed by Florida's two Democratic senators, Bob Graham, (a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee), and Bill Nelson.

It is likely that Democrats — especially Sen. John Edwards, who is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee — will use Goss' confirmation hearings to score political points at Bush's expense. But there is political peril in opposing confirmation of an apparently very well qualified candidate for CIA director at a time when the nation is under attack. So the Democrats are more likely to use the hearings to argue that Bush is dragging his feet on implementation of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, which John Kerry endorsed in whole, without bothering to read or reflect upon them.

Bush has endorsed the chief recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, that a National Intelligence Director be appointed to oversee all 15 agencies in the intelligence community.

The almost religious faith Democrats are putting in the 9/11 Commission could bite them. The only member with much prior experience in dealing with intelligence is former Navy Secretary John Lehman. By treating the 9/11 Commissioners as prophets, and the 9/11 Commission's recommendations as holy writ, Democrats could find it politically awkward to oppose Lehman if President Bush should choose to nominate this hawkish Republican as the first National Intelligence Director.

Every weekday publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. Comment by clicking here.

Jack Kelly Archives

© 2004, Jack Kelly