CIA Director Porter Goss resigned unexpectedly Friday, leaving behind a spy agency still battling to recover from the scars of intelligence failures before America’s worst terrorist attack and faulty information that formed the U.S. rationale for invading Iraq.
It was the latest move in a second-term shake-up of President Bush’s team.
Making the announcement from the Oval Office, Bush called Goss’ tenure one of transition.
“He has led ably,” Bush said, Goss at his side. “He has a five-year plan to increase the analysts and operatives.”
Goss said the trust, confidence and latitude that Bush placed in him “is something I could have never imagined.”
” I believe the agency is on a very even keel, sailing well,” Goss said. “I honestly believe that we have improved dramatically.”
The president did not name a successor, but said that person would continue Goss’ reforms.
“As a result, this country will be more secure,” Bush said. “We’ve got to win the war on terror, and the Central Intelligence Agency is a vital part of the war. So I thank you for your service.”
When Bush nominated Goss in August 2004, in the midst of the president’s re-election campaign, he said he would rely on the advice of the CIA officer-turned-politician on the sensitive issue of intelligence reform.
“He knows the CIA inside and out,” Bush said in a Rose Garden announcement at the time. “He’s the right man to lead this important agency at this critical moment in our nation’s history.”
Goss, a former congressman from Florida, head of the House Intelligence Committee and CIA agent, had been at the helm of the agency only since September 2004.
He came under fire almost immediately, in part because he brought with him several top aides from Congress who were considered highly political for the CIA.
He had particularly poor relations with segments of the agency’s powerful clandestine service. In a bleak assessment, California Rep. Jane Harman, the Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, recently said, “The CIA is in a free fall,” noting that employees with a combined 300 years of experience have left or been pushed out.
Under Goss and the sweeping intelligence overhaul Congress approved in December 2004, the CIA lost considerable clout among U.S. spy agencies. With the installation of the country’s first national intelligence director, John Negroponte, Goss no longer sat atop the 16 intelligence agencies. Negroponte took that role — and many of the CIA director’s responsibilities. That includes Bush’s morning intelligence briefings.
Goss also had some public blunders. In March 2005, just before Negroponte took over, Goss told an audience at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library that he was overwhelmed by the many duties of his job, including devoting five hours out of every day to prepare for and deliver the presential briefings.
“The jobs I’m being asked to do, the five hats that I wear, are too much for this mortal,” Goss said. “I’m a little amazed at the workload.”
Goss has pressed for aggressive probes about leaked information.
“The damage has been very severe to our capabilities to carry out our mission,” he told Congress in February, adding that a federal grand jury should be impaneled to determine “who is leaking this information.”
Just two weeks ago, Goss announced the firing of a top intelligence analyst in connection with a Pulitzer Prize-winning story about a network of CIA prisons in Eastern Europe. Such dismissals are highly unusual.
The realignment of Bush’s team amid the president’s sagging poll standings started with the resignation of Andrew Card as chief of staff and his replacement by Joshua Bolten, who had been the budget director.
There has been rampant speculation that Treasury Secretary John Snow would be leaving.