by Kenneth R. Timmerman
Posted May 31, 2006
Before Gen. Michael Hayden settles in as director of theCentral Intelligence Agency, Congress needs to ask hard questions ofthe man he has said he wants to appoint as deputy director of theCIA: former operations chief Stephen R. Kappes.
Kappes is a former Marine who elicits strong praise from formeroperations officers such as Gary Berntsen, who worked under him fortwo years.
Hayden also heaped praise on Kappes. "When I did the Rolodex checkaround the community about Steve & they’re almostuniversally positive," he told senators during his May 18confirmation hearing. "This is a guy who knows the business."
But to many intelligence insiders, the Kappes nomination sends aclear message that the Bush has abandoned its efforts to reform adysfunctional agency. And that is the most troubling part of thisappointment.
"The CIA has been at war with the Bush administration since thebeginning," says Richard Perle, the former chair of the DefensePolicy board. "What is astounding is the CIA campaign to discreditthis administration."
Just two months after Porter Goss took over as CIA Director in 2004,he ordered Kappes to fire his deputy, Michael Sulick, for grossinsubordination. Kappes refused, and offered his resignation instead-- telling colleagues that Goss would never dare to accept it. Hedid.
To some intelligence insiders, that made Kappes a hero.
Sulick and others referred to Goss’s aides dismissively as "theGoslings" and refused to take orders from them, claiming they were"political hacks" because they had worked for Goss in Congress. Manyin the media jumped in, accusing Goss and his staff of conducting a"witch hunt" for firing Sulick.
But every director of central intelligence has brought his closestaides with him from earlier jobs. This was true with Bill Casey inthe 1980s, and with George Tenet in the 1990s. And it willundoubtedly be true of Hayden as well.
What Sulick and a coterie of like-minded officials at the CIA didn’tlike about Goss was his mission. Goss had been appointed by thePresident -- or so he thought -- to "clean house" at the agency,firing officers who were incompetent, risk-averse, or so beholden toa partisan agenda that they could not loyally serve the President, asthey took an oath to do. To enforce those orders, Goss broughtprofessional staff from the House Permanent Select IntelligenceCommittee, who knew the community inside and out, including where thebodies were buried. Dangerous, indeed.
Rep. Curt Weldon (R.-Pa.) believes Kappes was a disaster as head ofthe CIA's directorate of operations, and called him "the ringleaderof an internal CIA rebellion" against Goss. "He was one of many inthe CIA resistant to needed reforms."
House Intelligence Chairman Peter Hoekstra (R.-Mich.) said Kappes wasguilty of "gross insubordination" for his behavior at the agencyunder Goss and complained that the administration never consultedCongress before choosing him. "You would think that on the No. 2person they might have just said, 'Hey, what do you think of thisguy,' but they never did," he told the Washington Times.
The real challenge facing the CIA today is how to reconstitute itsshattered human intelligence capabilities, as Hayden acknowledgedduring his confirmation hearing.
That will require recruiting a new generation of operations officerswho are "risk-takers versus being risk-averse," says Sen. SaxbyChambliss (R.-Ga.). Congress should holding hearings on Mr. Kappes --even if current law does not require the CIA deputy director to beconfirmed by the Senate -- to determine into which category hefalls.
The first person the SSIC should ask to testify is Weldon.
In Countdownto Terror, Weldon says Kappespoint-blank refused repeated pleas -- backed by then-CIA DirectorGeorge Tenet -- to travel to Paris to meet with a potential Iraniansource who claimed to have intelligence on Iran’s nuclearprograms and on Iran's ties to Osama Bin Laden.
Weldon encouraged Kappes to investigate the credentials of hissource, but got nowhere. "Finally, Kappes threatened me too. Hewarned me to stop working with [the source]& Fortunately,Kappes has now resigned from the CIA."
Those are chilling words, especially now that CIA has been givenauthority over all U.S. human intelligence operations. Under the newrules, CIA can essentially veto any source they find challenging,inconvenient, or worse, embarrassing.
Here are just a few of the issues Congress needs to explore:
Ä¢ Did Kappes encourage former Paris chief ofstation Bill Murray to compromise the identity of Weldon's Iraniansource in Paris? Weldon had gone to great lengths to protect hissource's identity, only to have his name appear in a left-wingpublication that interviewed Murray. A Kappes protégé,Murray said he was "outraged" that Weldon had attacked the CIA, andcalled his information "garbage." Outing Weldon’s source putthe man’s life at risk.
Ä¢ Was Kappes involved in the decision not toact on information provided by an Iranian defector in late July 2001during debriefings in Baku, Azerbaijan, that could have helped toprevent the September 11 attacks? The defector not only gave themethod of the attack -- hijacked civilian airliners. He identifiedthe perpetrators (al Qaeda operatives trained in Iran and gave theexact date, which the CIA's man in Baku mistranslated as September10.
Ä¢ What role did Kappes play in the compromiseof the CIA's last network of sources in Iran? According to myinformation Stephen Richer, who was in charge of Middle Eastoperations and who followed Kappes out the door in 2004, doubled thereporting requirements of the network in order to advance his ownevaluation. But Richer neglected to double the channels used tocommunicate with the Iranians. As a result, Iranian intelligencediscovered the network of agents and shut them down.
If this administration is going to rebuild our nation's ailing shipof spies, they are going to have to do more than just rearrange thedeck chairs.
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