No alien penetration or treachery of double agents has ever done nearly as much damage to the CIA as the infighting consequent upon the arrival of each new director, charged by his White House master with cleaning house and settling accounts with the bad guys installed by the previous White House incumbent.
Bush’s new director, former Republican Florida Representative Porter Goss, and his team of enforcers are now rampaging through the corridors of CIA HQ at Langley. Goss was once an undercover CIA officer, so there’s probably a personal edge to his mission of revenge, as he strikes back at the dolts who nixed his expense accounts or poured scorn on his heroic endeavors in the field.
But Goss’s most pressing task is to exact retribution for the anti-White House stories emanating from the CIA in the months before the election. Goss and his hit team have acted swiftly. In early November the CIA’s number 2, John McLaughlin, resigned, followed days later by the top man on the clandestine side and his deputy. And, no surprise, into retirement goes “Anonymous,” Michael Scheuer, leader of the CIA unit hunting Osama bin Laden. I’m with Goss on that one. Scheuer probably spent most of each day hunting down his next book advance and kibitzing about royalties from Imperial Hubris with his true “controls” at Brassey’s Inc., owned by shadowy Books International.
So Goss will exact vengeance, spill blood, leak to favored journalists and deliver Bush daily intelligence briefings tailored to meet the expectations of his patron.
Of course there’s a portentous uproar and wringing of pious hands as the cry goes up that the abilities of the agency to collect and analyze useful intelligence are being compromised by “unparalleled” political partisanship. “We need a director,” cries Jay Rockefeller, ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, “that is not only knowledgeable and capable, but unquestionably independent.”
There’s nothing new in all this. Permit me to take you on a brisk tour of CIA directors. Before Goss we had George Tenet, a politically agile former Congressional staffer so eager to please Bush that he uttered the imperishable words “slam dunk” about the supposed ease of making a case for Saddam’s WMD.
Tenet, whose political agility is advertised in the fact that he was one of the longer-serving DCIs, supplanted John Deutch, an MIT prof who divided his brief sojourn as director between downloads of the agency’s darkest secrets onto his personal laptop, business ventures with a revolving doorman from DoD, William Perry, and excursions to attend town meetings in Los Angeles, claiming to black audiences that the CIA had no role in funneling cocaine into the nation’s ghettos. Among the few secret files Deutch apparently failed to download onto his laptop were materials later excavated by the CIA’s own inspector general, Fred Hitz, establishing CIA complicity in the cocaine trade.