November 23, 2004


Porter's House: CIA Director Porter Goss takes charge. (Stephen F. Hayes, 11/29/2004, Weekly Standard)

For months leading up to the election, elements within the CIA had leaked information damaging to the reelection prospects of George W. Bush. Some of the leaks were authorized, some were not. Michael Scheuer, head of the CIA's bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999 who recently quit the agency in order to be free to criticize the intelligence community, said that CIA higher-ups had given him permission to speak to the media anonymously to "bash the president." Authorized or not, the result of the steady flow of leaks was the same. Bush was portrayed as incompetent and his policies disastrous. CIA-friendly reporters, eager to keep their sources happy, stuck to the agency line.

One significant leak landed on the front page of the New York Times on September 16, 2004. Prospects for success in Iraq, the CIA assessed, ranged from bleak to grim. The story and its timing coincided nicely with the Kerry campaign's effort to paint postwar Iraq as Vietnam-in-the-desert. Then in October, less than two weeks after Goss was confirmed, "past and current agency officials" sabotaged Goss's pick to be CIA executive
director, in what Bush administration figures considered a brushback pitch. Those agency officials revealed to Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus that Michael Kostiw, a respected former CIA official and immediate past staff director of the House terrorism subcommittee, had been arrested for shoplifting in 1981 and subsequently resigned from the CIA. "He is one of the brightest minds in the intelligence community," a senior Bush administration national security official told me months before Goss was nominated. Kostiw withdrew from consideration for the CIA job one day after the leak.

So it's no wonder that Goss was upset about leaks. Murray had told the associate deputy director of counterterrorism that the new agency leadership would not tolerate media leaks. This person reported the conversation to Michael Sulick, associate deputy CIA director for operations. Sulick, in turn, alerted his boss, Stephen Kappes, deputy CIA director for operations, and a meeting between Sulick, Kappes, Murray, and Goss was hastily arranged. Goss participated in most of the tense meeting. After he left, however, according to a source familiar with the confrontation, Murray reiterated the warning about leaks. Sulick took the advice as a threat and, calling Murray "a Hill puke," threw a stack of papers in his direction.

The following day, Goss summoned Kappes to discuss the altercation. Goss told Kappes that such behavior is unacceptable at his CIA and ordered Kappes to reassign Sulick to a post outside of the building. Goss suggested making Sulick the CIA station chief in New York City. Kappes refused to reassign Sulick and told Goss that he would resign if Sulick were removed from his post. Goss told Kappes to resign, and Kappes told Goss he intended to take the matter to the White House.

This guy's supposed to be an intelligence agent and he thought the White House would side with him?

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 23, 2004 11:04 AM

Usually, complaints from the right that the establishment press have a double standard leave me cold. Of course they have a double standard. They are perfectly able to understand that the means can justify the ends, up to and including the deaths of ten thousand Kulaks, if they like the ends. If not, not. But seldom does the press let itself get tied up in knots like it is now, when it is shocked at attempts to impose civilian control over the CIA.

Posted by: David Cohen at November 23, 2004 12:34 PM

If CBS was still airing original episodes of M*A*S*H nowadays, would CIA agent Col. Flagg be portrayed as a hero or a villian by the Hollywood writers?

Posted by: John at November 23, 2004 12:47 PM

Kappes must not have gotten the memo that Bush was re-elected or that he had won in 2000. It's just so hard for a CIA agent, busy with important matters like how to smuggle cocaine into the country, to keep track of minor issues like who the President of the US is.

Posted by: Bart at November 23, 2004 2:27 PM

I was willing to give Kappes the benefit of the doubt, because he's an ex-Marine, had some middle
East experience; had a role in the Libyan nuclear
pipeline. Then I realized what was the end result
of all that experience. Bob Baer, who never chaired a division despite the experience he had
acquired from Beirut to Dushambe and back.I would have preferred Cofer Black, late of State's counter terror divis.and one of Osama's actual pursuers; Gary Shroen an Afghan expert from start to finish; instead of someone who may or may not have been Barry Royden.

Posted by: narciso at November 24, 2004 12:04 AM
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