In Washington, it’s hardly without precedent for a presidential appointee to swear one thing before a Senate confirmation committee and then, once ensconced in the sought-after post, do another. But even by this standard, George W. Bush’s new Director of Central Intelligence, Porter Goss, has been particularly brazen. Appearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on September 14, Goss–until recently, a Florida Congressman and chair of the House Intelligence Committee–not only swore to “commit myself to a nonpartisan approach to the job of DCI”; he even went so far as to state that “it would be entirely inappropriate to make anything that looks like a partisan comment.”
On November 15, however, the newly appointed DCI told CIA employees in a memo that “we support the Administration and its policies in our work…we do not identify with, support or champion opposition to the Administration or its policies.” One of the most insightful analyses of the memo came from Jon Stewart’s Daily Show; correspondent Rob Corddry explained it as reflective of the Administration’s desire to deal only “with intelligence that’s been vetted to support decisions they’ve already made. They’re tired of having to repeatedly misinterpret information the CIA gives them, so from now on intelligence will arrive at the White House pre-misinterpreted.” In addition to heralding a likely continuation of the intelligence “stovepiping” process that reformers agree has to change, Goss’s memo was a stunning and unparalleled articulation of CIA fealty to the White House. It was also tantamount to a declaration of war by Goss and his Capitol Hill cronies against career civil servants–and necessary intelligence reform–that shows a remarkable lack of judgment and competence.
While external political pressures have marginalized the agency’s effectiveness, it also has a host of systemic problems that have nothing to do with politics. When Goss was nominated, some hoped that as a former CIA officer and Congressional overseer of the agency, he would be a statesmanlike reformer and would staff the CIA accordingly, perhaps going so far as to recall to duty some of the agency’s more respected hands. Not only has Goss declined the offer of a simple meeting with former deputy directors of operations (the chief spy-runners) seeking to offer counsel, but the Hill aides he’s brought with him to Langley are described by one venerated CIA officer as “the typical staffer–guys who used to work in the agency but fucked up or were too political to be effective.”
Joseph “Jay” Jakub, whose eight years of CIA experience as an analyst ended in the mid-1990s, has spent much of the past decade working for Goss or the rabidly partisan Representative Dan Burton; despite a lack of actual spy-running experience, he now occupies the Goss-created slot of “special assistant for operations and analysis.” Patrick Murray, John Ashcroft’s former associate deputy attorney general for national security and Goss’s chief of staff at the House Intelligence Committee and now at Langley, has, in the view of many, proved he has no business being there. Angered about the revelations that derailed one early high-level appointment (that of Michael Kostiw, who was forced out of the agency twenty-two years ago after a shoplifting incident), Murray told the agency’s counterintelligence chief that she would be held responsible for any further personnel-related leaks.