Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Gutting of the CIA?

Even as George Tenet's failings and merits as CIA head continue to be evaluated in books and articles, the recently ousted Porter Goss remains a polarizing figure, as does the man President Bush has tapped to take over this important job, General Michael Hayden. What state has Goss left things in?

Steve Benen of The Carpetbagger Report did a guest post at Crooks and Liars on 4/25/06 detailing how recently ousted CIA head Porter Goss was given instructions to purge Democrats from the CIA.
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius provides further insight into the dynamics of the CIA under Goss in a great 5/11/06 piece entitled How the CIA Came Unglued. A new Newsweek article by Mark Hosenball on "Dusty" Foggo supports Ignatius' piece and touches briefly on what many bloggers are calling "Hookergate."

Before delving into the Ignatius and Hosenball pieces, for a broader perspective I wanted to visit a conservative who champions both Goss and Hayden. In a Washington Post online chat, Peter Brookes, "a former intelligence officer with the CIA's Directorate of Operations and now a senior fellow in National Security Affairs at the Heritage Foundation," provided some interesting responses:

Washington, D.C.: What sort of job has Porter Goss done and why would Hayden be any better or worse?

Peter Brookes: Porter Goss did a good job under very difficult circumstances. The agency was in disarray after 9/11 and the failure to find WMD in Iraq. In my view, he shook things up and set the agency off in a new direction. It's a good time for someone else to step in and take the helm.

Note that Brookes blames the CIA for the failure to find WMD in Iraq. Hmm, shouldn't someone that works in a think tank be aware of the 11,000th whistleblower article on how the Bush administration misused prewar intelligence? They ignored not only significant internal dissent in the CIA as to whether Iraq possessed WMD or posed any serious threat, but also actively ignored or suppressed evidence that Iraq did not posses nuclear material and was not building a centrifuge.

Brookes pleads ignorance on the witch hunt charges, which is fine, I suppose, but it raises questions about how tapped in he really is:

San Diego, Calif.: Do you have a comment about the recent reports that Director Goss was conducting a review of the political party affiliations of CIA personnel? If that's true, did it play a part, one way or the other, in Goss's departure?

Peter Brookes: Haven't heard anything like that...

Brookes does take at least one polite but fairly pointed question on Goss:

Richmond, Va.: Thanks for taking questions. The Bush administration has blamed the CIA for bad intel about WMD in Iraq (and I don't believe them). This administration has outed an operative as a means of discrediting her husband, and claimed that they can declassify information at will. This administration has chosen to place a greater value on the DOD intelligence group. Putting Porter Goss in as Director served to purge a lot of valuable talent out of the agency. It seems to me Gen. Hayden could be just the fellow to finish the CIA off, or get pretty close to it. Your thoughts?

Peter Brookes: There is another school of thought that says that many of those that left the CIA since Goss came in were responsible for many of the failures in recent years. So should Goss have kept them? I don't think Hayden is being sent to Langley to close the place down.

Brookes essentially offers a "there are two sides to every story" defense of Goss while completely ducking the most troubling points made by the questioner. I find it hard to believe that any intellectually honest person following the news could believe that the Bush administration did not misuse and cherry-pick intelligence. While the CIA had its problems, it's clear that the Bush administration scapegoated the CIA (Tenet's role taking the undeserved blame regarding the uranium claims in the SOTU is well-documented at this point; for just a taste, see a Slate piece by Saletan from 2003 and a 2005 piece by Dickerson).

To be fair to Brookes, an online discussion necessitates expediency, and you can read his opinions in more depth here, including an enthusiastically pro-Hayden piece. Regarding Hayden, he takes a supremely relevant question:

Louisville, Ky.: Gen. Hayden seems to have a shocking misunderstanding of the Fourth Amendment, pleading ignorance of probable cause in recent interviews.
Please calm my fears that Hayden disagrees with the President, and does not think it acceptable to spy on average Americans without a warrant.

Peter Brookes: My belief is that the NSA wiretapping program should be legal and focused on the bad guys. That said, I think we'll see a lot more discussion of this during Hayden's confirmation hearings.

Brookes' answer is cursory and somewhat unclear here. Does he then acknowledge that both revealed NSA programs are currently illegal? Does he acknowledge that the call-tracking program currently targets innocent Americans by collecting everyone's phone records versus only the "bad guys?" I can credit Brookes for taking a good question, but he immediately loses all credit by completely ignoring it! Here he ducks the glaring issue of the 4th Amendment and also glosses over Hayden's apparent ignorance of, or disregard for, the essential law that governs his very important job! At this point, I have to put Brookes in the polite cheerleader camp. He trusts the guys in charge and will not address any of the glaring, serious concerns about their conduct. I'm using Brookes as an example because he purports to be a serious thinker and is much more civil than many another Bush administration backer (and his responses have been much on my mind).

As to evaluating the job Goss did, on 5/11/06 Dana Priest provided some insight in her weekly WaPo online chat:

Pittsburgh, Pa.: How do you read the move to reinstate Stephen Kappes at the CIA? This seems very unusual does it not? Do you know him?

Dana Priest: I certainly know of him, so to speak. It was truly a stunner, given the direct political slap it was to Goss' judgment. Kappes was the first senior officer to leave in protest when Goss took over. I read it as a way for the White House, through Negroponte, to ask for forgiveness and to get them back into business. I would also think he would actually be running the place much like George Tenet did and maybe Hayden would do more of the interagency work and vision thing.

Meanwhile, Ignatius' column reports on the deadly trio at the CIA, Porter Goss, his staff director Patrick Murray, and Goss' #3, "Dusty" Foggo, whose house was recently raided by FBI agents with the cooperation of the CIA. Ignatius posits that Foggo's "rise illustrates the conservative cronyism, leak paranoia and political vendettas that undermined Goss's tenure." He elaborates by describing the dangerous agency culture created by Goss:

When Goss and Murray arrived at the CIA in the fall of 2004, their first choice for the agency's No. 3 job of executive director was a former CIA officer named Michael Kostiw, who had many friends in conservative political circles. But Kostiw's nomination was sabotaged when a CIA insider leaked the fact that he had once been accused of shoplifting. The charges were dropped after Kostiw resigned and agreed to seek counseling. Kostiw's past made him an inappropriate choice for such a senior position, in the view of many career CIA officers, but to Murray the leak was evidence of a liberal cabal at the CIA that was determined to obstruct the Bush administration's agenda.

Goss's second choice for executive director was the ingratiating logistical officer. As is standard procedure with such senior appointments, Murray and other senior aides were briefed on Foggo's file, which included what one former CIA official describes as instances of "dumb personal behavior." The briefers included Mary Margaret Graham, then chief of counterintelligence, and Jeanette Moore, then head of the Office of Security, who, according to ABC News, had once reprimanded Foggo about alleged insubordination, though the CIA says a formal letter was never filed. Murray rejected the material about Foggo as petty and is said to have warned Graham, "If this leaks, you're dead."

Foggo was duly installed on the seventh floor and, to the amusement of his colleagues, began placing pictures of himself prominently around headquarters. Meanwhile, a period of internal bloodletting ensued that was worthy of the Soviet NKVD under Joseph Stalin. The associate deputy chief of the CIA's Directorate of Operations, Michael Sulick, complained angrily to Murray about his tongue-lashing of Graham, arguing that he was treating CIA officers as if they were Democratic congressional staffers. An indignant Murray thereupon demanded that Sulick be fired for insubordination. His boss, Operations Deputy Director Stephen Kappes, refused Murray's demand, and both he and Sulick resigned.

The aforemention Newsweek article by Mark Hosenball supports the views of Priest and Ignatius (Newsweek is owned by The Post, which also owns Slate):

May 22, 2006 issue - Until a few days ago, Kyle (Dusty) Foggo was one of the most feared men at the CIA. A hot-tempered former cop, Foggo was chosen by CIA Director Porter Goss to be the powerful No. 3 man at the agency, in charge of hiring and firing. Foggo seemed to put a lot of effort into firing. With Goss's blessing, he carried out what amounted to a purge of the agency, forcing out most of the CIA's top management, as well as spies and analysts who were thought to be too close to former director George Tenet, or too close to the Democrats. When Foggo walked down the corridor, people worried he was coming for them.
It's now up to Goss's replacement—presumably Gen. Michael Hayden, if he survives the confirmation process—to clean up the mess the Goss crew left behind. Last week Negroponte said he wants to appoint Stephen Kappes to fill the job of deputy director. The announcement was a very public slap at Goss. A former Marine and veteran case officer with a storied career, Kappes was head of the CIA's clandestine service when Goss took over the agency. Years earlier, when Bill Clinton was president, Goss's Capitol Hill aides had feuded with Kappes over an incident at the CIA station in Belgrade. CIA officers, informed they were about to be attacked, fled the building without first burning all of the secret papers. Goss's aides demanded that the station chief be fired, even though an investigation, led by Kappes, showed no secrets had been compromised. Kappes refused to fire the official. Goss and his aides never forgot it, and when Goss became director Kappes was one of the first to be shoved out. Kappes, who now lives overseas, has been back to Washington for talks and is believed to be interested in returning to Langley. Thanks to the previous tenants, there will be plenty of work for him to do—and undo.

But what sort of mandate will exist to fix the CIA? And according to whose idea of "fixing?" Ignatius concludes his column:

The chronic mismanagement of the CIA under Goss and Murray has been an open secret for many months, and the real question is why it took the Bush White House so long to fix it. When I posed this question a few weeks ago to a senior administration official, he repeated the line that the agency was full of leakers and obstructionists. The political vendetta against the CIA went to the top, in other words. It did real damage to the country before President Bush finally called a halt.

Goss apparently still has fierce champions in the Bush administration, even though Brookes is apparently unaware of the party line on this, pleaded ignorance, or tried to adopt a disinterested stance. Who really made the call on Goss stepping down, or pushed for it, and why? While tensions did exist at the agency, the firing criteria for Bush has almost exclusively been perceived disloyalty and never horrible mismanagement. Goss was rooting out Bush's perceived enemies, and it's hard to see him objecting to that. Despite the official denials, the most credible narrative right now remains that Goss' resignation was primarily (but not necessarily exclusively) to minimize the erupting scandal centered on the activities of Dusty Foggo.

Moving forward, Kappes appears to be highly regarded by just about everybody. Meanwhile, some reporters and pundits posit that Negroponte wants Hayden to serve as a bulwark against the highly influential Donald Rumsfeld (Dana Priest discusses this view here). How partisan is Negroponte, and how much is Hayden? Hayden has critics and supporters of every political stripe. He deserves intense scrutiny as the head of the NSA during its highly controversial and unconstitutional warrantless spying programs. While it seems Kappes' return to the CIA would surely make the agency better, Hayden's stated ignorance of, or disdain for, the 4th Amendment does not give great comfort. I'll be watching Specter's NSA and CIA hearings with great interest.

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