Jewish World Review August 13, 2004 / 26 Menachem-Av, 5764
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
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
"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
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.
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
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