The Magazine

The CIA 1--Bush 0

The age of reform ends after 18 months.

May 22, 2006, Vol. 11, No. 34 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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PORTER GOSS'S TENURE as director of central intelligence began with a public spat between the new reform-minded CIA leadership and an intransigent bureaucracy. Now, 18 months later, it is ending in a cloud of confusion. Goss is gone and so are his agents of change. Two of the CIA officials at the heart of that opening battle--Mary Margaret Graham and Stephen Kappes--have been promoted. And the old guard is happy.

"The move was seen as a direct repudiation of Goss's leadership and as an olive branch to CIA veterans disaffected by his 18-month tenure," wrote Peter Baker and Charles Babington in the Washington Post. Yet Goss had taken to the CIA the high expectations of many top Washington policymakers who work on intelligence issues.

"Porter Goss's confirmation . . . represents perhaps the most important changing of the guard for our intelligence community since 1947," the year the CIA was created, said Pat Roberts, the Kansas Republican who chairs the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, on the day Goss was confirmed. "He will be the first director of central intelligence in a new, and hopefully better, intelligence community."

And now he's gone. So what happened?

GOSS WAS SWORN IN as CIA director on September 22, 2004, two days after the Senate voted 77-17 to confirm him. Although his hearings came in the midst of a heated presidential campaign, Goss managed to win the votes of most Senate Democrats.

On September 30, Goss named Michael Kostiw, the staff director of the House Intelligence Committee's subcommittee on terrorism, executive director of the CIA. Within days, a leak to the Washington Post revealed that Kostiw had left the Agency in the early 1980s in the wake of a shoplifting incident, and he promptly withdrew from consideration.

Welcome to the CIA, Mr. Goss. Enjoy the ride.

On November 5, Goss's new chief of staff Patrick Murray confronted Mary Margaret Graham, then serving as associate deputy director for counterterrorism in the directorate of operations. The two discussed several items, including the prospective replacement for Kostiw, a CIA veteran named Kyle "Dusty" Foggo. Murray had a simple message: No more leaks.

Graham took offense at the accusatory warning and notified her boss, Michael Sulick, who in turn notified his boss, Stephen Kappes. A meeting of Goss, Murray, Sulick, and Kappes followed. Goss attended most of the meeting, in which the two new CIA leaders reiterated their concern about leaks. After Goss left, Murray once again warned the two career CIA officials that leaks would not be tolerated. According to a source with knowledge of the incident, Sulick took offense, called Murray "a Hill puke," and threw a stack of papers in his direction.

Goss summoned Kappes the following day. Although others in the new CIA leadership believed Sulick's behavior was an act of insubordination worthy of firing, Goss didn't go quite that far. He ordered Kappes to reassign Sulick to a position outside of the building. Goss suggested Sulick be named New York City station chief. Kappes refused and threatened to resign if Sulick were reassigned. Goss accepted his resignation and Sulick soon followed him out the door.

A Washington Post story on November 13 and a follow-up the next day reported that Goss staffers were "disgruntled" former CIA officials who were "known widely" for their "abrasive management style." One was "highly partisan." On the other side of the dispute, judging from the Post accounts, were highly respected career civil servants.

It was a characterization that would persist throughout Goss's tenure at the Agency. And it was deeply misleading.

ELEMENTS OF THE CIA have been in near-open revolt against the Bush administration since shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, despite the fact that Bush retained CIA director George Tenet, a Clinton appointee and former Democratic Hill staffer. The CIA staff is huge--by some estimates nearly 25,000--so attempts to ascribe views to "the Agency" are imprecise. Many CIA officials simply do their jobs, sometimes at great personal risk, and deserve the gratitude of their country.

But the notion that the CIA was apolitical until Porter Goss and his staff arrived is silly. It wasn't.

Examples of political meddling at the CIAare plentiful. Here are a few:

* In July 2003, Joseph Wilson went public about his trip to Niger to explore claims that Iraqi officials had sought uranium from the African nation. Wilson had been sent despite (or because of) the fact that he was a fervent critic of Bush's Middle East policy. Although the details of the trip were classified, Wilson never signed a nondisclosure agreement and was thus free to discuss his trip and misreport its findings. So he did.