Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The IG Strikes Back

ABC News reported yesterday that the CIA Inspector General's office has launched a investigation of the agency's #3 official, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo. The probe centers on Foggo's relationship with two defense contractors accused of bribing former California Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham and DOD officials.

In response to the ABC report, the CIA released a statement noting that "it is standard practice for the IG--an aggressive, independent watchdog--to look into assertions that mention agency officers." The agency also announced that Mr. Foggo will remain in his post as the CIA's Executive Director (essentially, the agency's top administrator) during the investigation.

The probe is not unexpected. Reports about Foggo's ties to the contractors have swirled for months, and it is certainly within the purview of the CIA IG to look into possible improprieties. But the timing of the investigation--or at least the announcement--is a bit curious.

Lest we forget, the IG is Mary McCarthy's old shop. I'm not saying there's a link between her recent dismissal and the investigation into Foggo, but it is a bit odd that word of the inquiry leaked to the media--and prompted an official CIA statement--just days after McCarthy was fired for unauthorized contacts with the press. Given Foggo's position within the agency--and potential implications of the bribery scandal--a probe was probably inevitable, and at some point, the agency would be forced to acknowledge the inquiry. But it looks like someone at Langley was anxious to get the story in the press, and tar a key member of Porter Goss's new management team. Perhaps one of McCarthy's former IG colleagues saw an opportunity to exact a little revenge, by playing the leak game one more time.

There is a better way to handle this problem. While the probe is underway, Foggo should be placed on an unpaid leave of absence. If he's cleared, he can return to his post. If he's indicted, he can resign or be fired. Certainly, there's nothing illegal about him remaining on the job during the investigation, but the move strikes me as incredibly tone deaf. Just as the Goss team was beginning to make some headway against their internal leakers and critics, the Foggo inquiry will forment charges that CIA leadership is corrupt and ineffective--and providing a convenient distraction from the leak scandal.

You can expect the Foggo investigation to work its way into Democratic and media talking points in the coming days. For those types, this investigation is almost a godsend, shifting the media spotlight--and public scrutiny--away from the leak problem, and onto the CIA's top administrator. Mr. Foggo could do himself (and the agency) a favor by taking a leave of absence until the investigation is completed, thwarting efforts by the anti-Bush cabal to reframe the agency's problems in terms of its executive director. If Mr. Foggo acted illegally or improperly he deserves to be punished. However, amid the hubub surrounding this investigation, it's important to remember that the real scandal at Langley involves those who leak for personal and partisan agendas, with reckless disregard for national security.

One final thought: the Foggo probe reportedly focuses on his relationship with the defense contractors while serving as a mid-level procurement supervisor, based in Europe. In that capacity, Foggo oversaw secret contracts for CIA programs in Europe. Foggo is described as a close friend of one of the contractors, Brent Wilkes. But outlines of the investigtion suggest that Wilkes and his partners had contacts with numerous officials in the national security establishment. That raises an interesting question: did other CIA contracting officials know Wilkes and his fellow conspirators, and if so, are they being investigated? Given the size of the agency and its contracting programs, it seems likely that Wilkes and his partners might have had contact with multiple CIA procurement officers. If that is the case--and the probe is restricted to only Mr. Foggo-- it would suggest that the investigation is more a product of diversion and revenge, than a "real" inquiry into possible wrong-doing.

1 comment:

Andrewdb said...

ABC may have posted this yesterday, but it was reported in the San Diego Union Tribune (Felon, opps I mean Congressman, Cunningham's home paper) several weeks ago.