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Agency turmoil expected as CIA adjusts to new director

Sunday, November 28, 2004

WASHINGTON -- When former CIA director George Tenet said his farewells at a two-hour ceremony this summer, a deputy noted that 40 percent of the agency's staff had worked for just one chief.

It was a symbol of Tenet's endurance, seven years on the job, the second longest tenure of a director. It also was a mark of the agency's growth during a hiring spree that began in 1998 and accelerated after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

With Tenet's successor, former Rep. Porter Goss, in charge and making changes, one of the longer periods of leadership stability in the CIA's 57-year history is ending.

In an e-mail this month, Goss told employees of his plans for new procedures, organization and senior personnel. He reminded them that the CIA is a "secret agency," indirectly addressing media leaks. Goss also said he intends to clarify "beyond doubt the rules of the road."

At least five top officials already have left the CIA since Goss took over.

There are those who view Goss' early moves as a purge. They worry that the Florida Republican who led the House Intelligence Committee until August is bringing a partisan background to an agency that traditionally has tried to avoid politics.

Others see the transition as welcome change for an agency criticized for major intelligence failures, including missing clues before Sept. 11 and botching the prewar analysis on Iraq's weapons.

Goss has surrounded himself with close advisers from the House committee who have become embroiled in the recent turmoil at the CIA.

A rough transition so far

In an interview, Stansfield Turner, who headed the agency in 1977, said Goss could not have come in without wanting to make changes.

While Turner gives Goss the benefit of the doubt, he questions how Goss and his aides are going about the transition.

"They seem to be a little ham-handed," Turner said. "That is, I think it would have been advisable for him and his team to take a little while and get to know the place."

To Richard Kerr, a former CIA deputy director who led the agency's internal review of the Iraq analysis for Tenet, "It has been a fairly rough transition so far."

Kerr and other officials are surprised about how public a series of high-profile retirements has been since Goss took over. Not all were happy partings, and it is unclear whether officials left voluntarily.

The undercover heads of the Europe and Far East divisions are stepping down.

The top two officials in the agency's Directorate of Operations, the clandestine service, left after conflicts with Goss' aides that came into the open when they were leaked to the media.

Goss' deputy director, John McLaughlin, who had been acting director, announced his retirement after a 32-year career. Goss has told agency employees he is working on recommending a replacement to President Bush.

On Wednesday, in an editorial in The Washington Post, McLaughlin urged "balance and thoughtfulness" in the discussion of intelligence changes. He said criticisms of the CIA as dysfunctional are "way out of line."

"Like the U.S. military, our nation's intelligence officers face daunting challenges now and for years to come," McLaughlin wrote. "Constructive criticism can help. Tirades and hyperbole will not."

Attention is turning to changes Goss will make at the agency's other leading section, the Directorate of Intelligence, which is headed by Jami Miscik. A friend and colleague of McLaughlin's, she was heavily involved in the Iraq analysis.

Goss' moves also are under scrutiny by Democratic lawmakers.

Some were dismayed by a line in Goss' recent e-mail to agency personnel that said the CIA's job is to "support the administration." The CIA said that should not be interpreted to mean support the administration politically, but rather support it with intelligence.

In a letter to Goss, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she feared the "politicization of our intelligence services."


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