November 15, 2004


The CIA Fights Back:The Agency fights back as Porter Goss and the Bush administration push for institutional reform. (Stephen F. Hayes, 11/15/2004, Weekly Standard)

ON NOVEMBER 5, 2004, a top aide to new CIA Director Porter Goss warned the associate deputy director of counterintelligence about unauthorized leaks to the media. It was an admonition that might be considered unnecessary: secrecy is a hallmark of the agency and, in any case, such leaks are often against the law. But several officials bristled at the forewarning and after a series of confrontations the deputy director of Operations, Stephen R. Kappes, offered his resignation as a protest.

How do we know about all of this? The details were leaked and appeared Saturday on the front page of the Washington Post. Both the Post and the New York Times ran follow-up stories on Sunday. That evening, CBS News anchor John Roberts was already suggesting a failure, asking reporter Joie Chen, "What went wrong?" And so we have, three months into Porter Goss's tenure at the agency, a full-blown war between the Bush administration and the CIA.

In fact, this war has been underway for years but only one side--the CIA--has been fighting. The White House response to this latest assault will be an important sign of its willingness to gut the rotten bureaucracy at the CIA.

Dana Priest, co-author of the two Washington Post stories and one of a dozen reporters who regularly receive CIA leaks, previewed this current battle in an online chat on October 13, 2004. A reader from Bethesda, Maryland, asked: "What's your take on Porter Goss's leadership at the CIA after nearly a month in office? Is
he making an effort to reach out to the rank and file or is he pretty much relying on his 'special advisers' to run the place for him?"

Wrote Priest: "He's created quite a stir among employees who are anxious and worried about his intentions. Mainly this is because he brought with him a group of Congressional aides who were not well respected, so I hear, by people in the building. Now, the question is: are they not well respected because they have axes to grind or because they represent change at an agency that has a hard time changing; or, are they not well respected because they don't know enough about intelligence and are mean spirited. Time will tell."

Now we know. According to the Post, top advisers to Goss are "disgruntled" former CIA officials "widely known" for their "abrasive management style" and for criticizing the agency.

If there's one thing that both the Duelfer Report and the 9-11 Commission's report scream out it is that the CIA is grotesquely incompetent. It's hardly surprising that the incompetents don't want to be run by people known for "criticizing the agency." The question is why anyone who isn't implicated in the mess should care what its creators want.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 15, 2004 12:04 PM

I've long had a bone to pick with the CIA.

Early in Desert Storm, we found ourselves egressing across open terrain, only to be suddenly confronted by a curtain of astonishingly dense AAA fire. We found this odd, as rarely does one find point defenses in the middle of nowhere.

Several weeks later we found out why, when we revisited that same spot, only this time using it as a target.

Turns out it was a nuke research facility, something the CIA refused to tell anyone until they decided it was time to bomb it.

Bloody fundaments.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 15, 2004 12:17 PM

This kind of war by leak may have worked in the past. With President Bush, it is likely to fail in a big way. Seems pretty apparent to this outsider that these "mean spirited" people are rude by design, designed to provoke resignations.

Posted by: Bob at November 15, 2004 12:29 PM

When the story is written of how the CIA, the MSM, Zarqawi, Soros & friends (in the oil market), etc etc conspired implicitly and explicitly to defeat GWB, we will marvel how lucky this nation was in 2004.

Posted by: curt at November 15, 2004 12:30 PM

More Clinton legacy. It's a miracle we survived his eight years.

Posted by: erp at November 15, 2004 1:00 PM

I eagerly await similar articles about the State Department and Secretary Powell's replacement.

Posted by: Morrie at November 15, 2004 1:06 PM

Given that the CIA was the left's premiere bugaboo for all things wrong about America during the Vietnam war era and on into the Reagan Administration, it's really funny to watch both the careerist go scrambling to the media to save them from the administration, and those on the left who were the main ones screaming about its abuses now being the ones leading the charge to save the agency from the evil Bushies.

Posted by: John at November 15, 2004 3:02 PM

The CIA is a bureaucracy, and therefore rewards people who think inside the box and play the game by the set rules. Which means it is slow and inflexible. One needs to recognize that and figure out a decent work-around. For example, before the Iraq War one could ask "Are you certain that Saddam has WMDs?" Obviously the answer is "No, but there's lots of supporting evidence..." That's the wrong question. If one asks "Are you certain that Saddam does NOT have WMDs?" the answer must of course be "No." So then, if you're the President, you can say "Good enough for me. Gen. Franks, you may fire when ready."

Posted by: brian at November 15, 2004 3:20 PM

This has the potential for really good low comedy. The CIA apparat running to the NY Times to protect it from Porter Goss and those nasty neo-cons is a picture for the ages. It's more than worth the price of admission to see what's left of the Democratic leadership line up to support the CIA, after decades of accusing it of all manner of horribles. This should alone be worth another 3-4 points to Nader when he runs in 2008, as well as grist for a Green Party run on the Congressional level in several states.

Because this is a big battle and the CIA apparat will pull out all the stops, we will finally get a chance to see who in the GOP is with us and who is just a RINO or a wimp.

Posted by: Bart at November 15, 2004 4:12 PM

These incompetent bureaucrats took a run at Bush (and Rumsfeld) when he was down. He really had no time in his 1st term being burdened with 9/11 and its aftermath and a year of campaigning. On 11/2 they failed. Now he has 4 years to reform them. They know they're screwed and are whining.

If the lame Plame op and the pathetic leaks are any indication of their offensive capabilities, we should fire them on that basis alone.

The agency does have some good people and has worked well in some areas (Afghanistan, cooperating with some allied agencies, etc.) so I do not endorse OJ's open source concept. But we can do with a good purge. Apparently they have nothing on Iran, which is the big challenge so no big loss there and the liason functions are handled at lower levels, as far as I understand.

CIA should be working to lop off the mullahs while retaining the goodwill of the Iranians but no doubt reject such neoconish thinking as being too 'ideological' which has apparantly become a codeword for 'imaginative' in State/CIA circles.

Posted by: JAB at November 15, 2004 8:34 PM

Subpeona Dana Priest fire anyone who ever talked to her. And no I don't care if she rots at Guantanamo as Bad Mohameds roomate.

If that doesn't work Decimation.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at November 16, 2004 1:21 AM