October 19, 2005

A Year Later, Goss's CIA Is Still in Turmoil

Hundreds of years of leadership and experience has walked out the door in the last year," said Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), "and more senior people are making critical career decisions as we speak."

In March, Goss complained during a speech that his job was overwhelming and that he was surprised by the number of hours it demanded. "The White House wasn't amused by that," one intelligence community official said. Then in June, Goss told Time magazine that he had "an excellent idea" where Osama bin Laden was but that the United States could not get him because of diplomatic sensitivities. This time, the White House and the State Department publicly disputed the remarks.

A Brain Drain

When Goss arrived at the CIA in September 2004 with four GOP aides from Capitol Hill in tow, he was accused of bringing a Republican agenda to an agency that has long sought to distance itself from partisan politics. Personality clashes erupted between his staff and career officials, leading to two high-profile resignations in the clandestine service within six weeks.

Hoping to quell fears that the posts would be filled with political allies, Goss quickly promoted from within. But he has had difficulty retaining senior leaders. Most of those departing are doing so on their own initiative, not Goss's.

In the clandestine service alone, known as the "Directorate of Operations," Goss has lost one director, two deputy directors, and at least a dozen department heads, station chiefs and division directors -- many with the key language skills and experience he has said the agency needs.

"He obviously has a problem with the D.O.," said one ally in the intelligence community who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Some officials resigned in frustration with Goss or his staff; others took early retirement or arranged transfers out of the CIA. Robert Richer, the No. 2 official in the D.O., announced his resignation last month, then shared his concerns about Goss with the Senate intelligence panel.

Shortly afterward, the head of the European division, whose key and undercover role includes overseeing the hunt for al Qaeda on the continent, surprised his staff by announcing his own departure. Equally surprising to some was his destination: the Energy Department's office of intelligence, a small and specialized analytic shop concentrating on nuclear technology. For an operator of his seniority, the career choice was seen as highly unusual.


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