Loss of Goss

When Porter Goss took over as director of the Central Intelligence Agency in 2004, he was on a mission to rebuild the agency’s ability to carry out its core function: recruiting spies.  As chairman of the House Intelligence Committee in the late 1990s, he had resisted budget cuts that undermined the CIA’s human-intelligence-gathering capabilities, and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks had been a rueful reminder that he was right.

Inside the CIA, Goss ran into expected resistance from senior officials of a bureaucracy that had dismally failed to track al Qaeda or to accurately gauge Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction programs. Some of these officials quit. Others made partisan leaks to the liberal press. One was fired after failing polygraph tests about her contacts with reporters, including one from the Washington Post who won a Pulitzer Prize for revealing that the CIA was detaining terrorists at secret prisons in Eastern Europe. Nonetheless, some Republicans in Washington believe Goss brought his own problems to the CIA: a lack of managerial skills and a partisan staff too used to congressional infighting to lead an agency with a national security role. But Goss’ greatest problem may have been National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, who has a reputation of being a bad manager himself. As Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney noted in a recent column, Negroponte included among his own lieutenants some who were antagonistic toward the Bush Administration, notably Thomas Fingar, a former top State Department intelligence analyst who emerged as a leading critic of John Bolton, when the conservative Bolton was nominated as ambassador to the UN.