The White House is tryingits best to put a happy face on the abrupt firing of CIA DirectorPorter Goss. Announced on a Friday afternoon – the classictiming for doomsday announcements – the news came as a surpriseto many intelligence professionals, including, I am told, Gosshimself.
Formerly mainstream media outlets including the Washington Post andthe New York Times have made much of the alleged involvement of Goss’schief of staff, Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, in a corruptionscheme involving convicted former Congressman Randy (Duke)Cunningham.
According to these breathless accounts, Foggo attended poker games –imagine! – with a friend at the Watergate (yes, that Watergate)hotel. No one is yet saying what stakes they wagered, nor the type offemale companions Foggo’s friends may or may not have provided.Nor has anyone alleged – so far! - that Mr. Goss attended thesegatherings. Wink wink, nod nod,
Washington, DC is a Byzantine place, but no part of our nation’spower structure is more Byzantine than the intelligenceestablishment. Planted stories such as the ones now circulating aboutPorter Goss are a form of payback, aimed squarely at tarnishing theformer CIA chief’s reputation and enhancing the status of hisenemies.
Among those enemies are a coterie of current and former CIA officerswho have backed Mary McCarthy, the CIA deputy inspector general andDemocratic-party contributor who was fired by Goss after she failed apolygraph. Shehas been accused of leaking classified intelligence about secret CIAprisons to the media, which she has denied through herlawyer.
The White House has encouraged the worst of the mud-slingers bycalling back from retirement a former Director of Operations, StephenKappas, who quit in open rebellion against Mr. Goss in 2004.
The official explanation for bringing Kappas out of retirement isthat the White House wanted to “balance” the general’suniform with a known and trusted intelligence civilian. After all,they reasoned, Kappas was a former Director of Operations who wonhigh praise from his subordinates. Kappas will be nominated to becomedeputy director.
But Kappas is a former Marine. And while that service is to hiscredit, it makes mincemeat of the official argument about “balance”from a civilian.
Also making mincemeat of that argument was none other than Secretaryof Defense Donald Rumsfeld, widely seen by the media (with someegging on from the White House) as one of the targets of this latestrearrangement of the deck chairs on our nation’s ailing ship ofspies.
Asked on Tuesday to refute the argument that Hayden would be beholdento the Pentagon because he still wore his general’s uniform,Rumsfeld suggested that reporters examine Hayden’s career. Ifthey did so, he said, they would notice that Hayden had never held anoperational command, but was an “intelligence professional”whose entire career had been spent driving computers, satellites, andwhole brigades of desks.
With Gen. Hayden in charge at the CIA, the agency comes fully underthe control of DNI John Negroponte. White House officials haveindicated clearly that this was the goal behind Hayden’sappointment.
But it’s the Kappas appointment that is far more troubling tointelligence insiders, because it sends a clear message that the Bushadministration has abandoned its efforts to weed out incompetents andfierce political partisans from the Agency.
“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 todiscredit this administration.”
Perle cites numerous examples where the CIA has ¬Ýdroppedthe ball - failing to warn about the threats from Islamicfundamentalism, missing Iran’s nuclear weapons program,reinterpreting intelligence on Saddam’s weapons programs afterthe 2003 war. “The CIA had a lot of explaining to do” forits past failures, he argued. “It was easier to attack thepresident than own up to their own deficiencies.”
Just two months after Goss took over in 2004, he ordered Kappas tofire his deputy, Michael Sulick, for gross insubordination.
Sulick and others referred to Goss’s aides dismissively as “theGoslings” and refused to take orders from them, claiming theywere “political hacks” because they had worked for Gossin Congress. Taking their side in this partisan battle, theWashington Post accused Goss and his staff of conducting a “witchhunt” 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 General Hayden as well.
During his brief tenure in 1995-1996, John Deutsch brought on boardNora Slatkin as CIA Executive Director. She infamously required CIAofficers to contribute to a gigantic “diversity quilt” ondisplay at the headquarters building, if they wanted to keep theirjobs.
What Sulick and the partisan burrowers within the CIA didn’tlike about Porter Goss was his agenda. He had been appointed by thePresident – or so he thought – to “clean house”at the Agency, firing officers who were incompetent or so beholden toa partisan agenda that they could not loyally serve the president. Toenforce those orders, Goss brought professional staff from the HousePermanent Select Intelligence Committee – people like DustyFoggo – who knew the community inside and out, including wherethe bodies were buried.
Congressman Curt Weldon (R, Pa) also believes Kappas is a disaster,and called him “the ringleader of an internal CIA rebellion”against Porter Goss. “He was one of many in the CIA resistantto needed reforms.”
By announcing the Kappes appointment, the White House is sending aclear message that the time of reforming the CIA is over. And that isthe most troubling part of this appointment.
The real challenge facing the CIA today is how to reconstitute itsshattered human intelligence capabilities.
In his book Countdown to Terror, Rep. Weldon says Kappespoint-blank refused repeated pleas - backed by then CIA DirectorGeorge Tenet - ¬Ýto travel to Paris to meet with apotential Iranian source who claimed to have intelligence on Iran’snuclear programs 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 given efforts by John Negroponteto assert central control over all human intelligence operations.
If you thought the CIA was missing it before, just wait for thefailures charging at us down the pike.
Congress should oppose the appointment of Steve Kappes as deputydirector of CIA, and insist that the Defense Department be encouragedto develop its own human intelligence capabilities independent of CIAcontrol. If ever we were in need of a “second opinion” inmatters of national intelligence, now is the time.
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