This may be administration spin, or (perhaps) we're learning what actually prompted Porter Goss to step down as CIA Director. According to ABC News, Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte was unhappy with Goss's performance, and initiated an effort to get rid of the CIA director back in mid-April. That led to a series of meetings between Goss, Negroponte and President Bush. ABC says the last meeting occurred on Wednesday, when it was decided that Goss would announce his resignation.
If this report is correct, it suggests that Negroponte is continuing to consoliate his power as DNI. When Negoponte first assumed the DNI post last April, there was concern that he would be unable to effectively control the nation's sprawling intelligence community. Goss's resignation suggests that Negroponte wants to assume more direct control over the CIA. That tends to reinforce the belief that the next agency director will be someone Negroponte knows and trusts. If that theory is correct, then Negroponte's DDNI (General Michael Hayden) may well be atop the short list of candidates to run the CIA.
Carl Cameron of FNC is reporting that a replacement for Goss could be named as early as Monday. That "rapid" timeline suggests someone already in the intelligence or national security establishment--someone like a Mike Hayden; others have suggested National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley might be a candidate for the CIA job. According to his resume, Hadley has some intel experience, but as a consumer, not an analyst or producer. Given the task facing the next CIA director, I'm not sure Hadley is the right man for the post. There's also the question of whether Hadley or Hayden would want a "lateral" promotion to run the CIA. While I believe Hayden has the right resume, he has already run an intelligence agency.
Lost amid the news about Goss is another key vacancy at the top of the intelligence community. The director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA), which provides imagery and geospatial intel products is scheduled to depart in mid-June, and a replacement has yet to be named. The current NGA director (retired Lt Gen James Clapper) was informed in March that his "contract" would not be renewed or extended. We've been told that the next NGA leader will be an active duty, three-star flag officer (a Lt Gen or Vice-Admiral), but so far, there has been little speculation as to who might replace Clapper.
Mac Ranger weighs in on the CIA's change at the top. He sums up Goss's departure in two words: mission accomplished. I'm not quite ready to climb on that bandwagon (yet), but he makes a persuasive argument. According to Mac, any celebrations at Langley may be short-lived and premature.
The talking heads suggest there's more to this story than is currently being reported. Bill Kristol on FNC is suggesting that some sort of scandal may be about to break. The few sources I've talked to seem genuinely surprised, with no ideal of what might have prompted this sudden change.
Chris Wallace of FNC is now saying that Goss's resignation is part of the overall White House/Administration shake-up. A White House source tells Wallace that Goss had done his job in "shaking up the agency." I've got my doubts. In his appearance in the Oval Office, Goss had the appearance of someone who had been handed his walking papers. We'll know more in the coming hours.
One more note: Goss's military aide (an Air Force Colonel) left his post at the agency last month. However, this appears to be a routine reassignment, and not a harbinger of what happened today. Indeed, the Air Force Colonel in question is moving on to a commander's billet--a definite promotion.
Porter Goss has announced that he is stepping down as Director of the CIA, after only one year on the job.
Liberal pundits are already spinning Goss's resignation as a sign of serious problems at Langley. In reality, the former Congressman is more a victim of bureaucratic wars. Goss was confirmed as CIA director at about the same time that Ambassador John Negroponte became the nation's first Director of National Intelligence (DNI). That represented a watershed in the history of the nation's intelligence community. For the first time, the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) was no longer America's top-ranking intelligence officer; instead, he became just another agency director, on the same level as the Directors of the National Security Agency (NSA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA).
The distinction is important. No longer is the CIA Director the president's primary intelligence advisor--that responsibility now belongs to John Negroponte. Additionally, the responsibility for preparing the presidential daily briefing (PDB) falls on the DNI, not the CIA. Given the scope of our intelligence collection, analysis and dissemination efforts, preparation of a single daily summary or briefing (even for the President) may sound like a routine task. But that is hardly the case; the PDB equals access, and that duty now belongs to John Negroponte, not the CIA director.
What disturbs me about the Goss resignation is the possibility that internal battles may have worn down the director, and eventually convinced him to throw in the towel. It's no secret that Goss has been fighting pitched battles against staffers who oppose Bush Administration policies, and the new management team at the CIA. Goss recently fired CIA officer Mary McCarthy for unauthorized contacts with the press, and there are hints that other agency staffers may be implicated as well. But earlier this week, the CIA launched an investigation of the agency's #3 official--a Goss appointee--in connection with the bribery scandal that sent former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham to federal prison. Given the timing--and announcement--of the inquiry, there was some belief that the probe was something of a "counter-attack" by agency's anti-administration cabal.
Today's announcement clearly caught the White House by surprise. Consequently, the director's position may remain vacant for a while, and that could derail the reform campaign at Langley. To avoid that, President Bush should consider the appointment of an experienced intelligence manager who could move into the job quickly and seamlessly. IMO, one of the few men who could do that is the current Deputy Director of National Intelligence, General Mike Hayden. General Hayden isn't a CIA veteran, but he was extremely effective as Director of NSA for more than five years. During his tenure at Ft Meade, he reformed and reshaped the NSA, clearing out bureaucratic deadwood, boosting agency morale, and improving its importance.
At a critical juncture in its history, General Hayden just might be the right man for the CIA job.