Another sign that Congress's intelligence reform is a mess.
Saturday, May 6, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT
Like most spy matters, Porter Goss's surprise resignation yesterday as CIA Director is hard to read. The White House insists he wasn't forced out, and at 67 years old the former head of the House Intelligence Committee has always said he didn't plan on a long tenure.
On the other hand, he was only in the job for 20 months, he leaves in the middle of a vast intelligence reorganization, and his successor may face a bloody election-year confirmation fight in the Senate. This isn't a great moment to leave.
The most distressing news would be if Mr. Goss is a victim of those parts of the permanent intelligence bureaucracy that resisted his tenure from the start. Nasty press leaks helped to knee-cap one of the aides Mr. Goss brought with him to Langley, and numerous career officials retired or were ushered out, including some from the clandestine service. With many in the agency clearly in revolt against the Bush Doctrine, Mr. Goss was sure to be a political lightning rod. It would be a bad sign if his abrupt departure means that the bureaucracy got its man.
In any case, Mr. Goss clearly lost out in the intelligence reorganization demanded by Congress and which has so far been a royal mess. This is not the fault of Mr. Goss, who took the CIA job before the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 became law. That brainstorm--promoted by the 9/11 Commission--created a Directorate of National Intelligence that was supposed to help us detect and repel any future surprise attacks.
The jury on that is still out. But we do already know that the DNI has become another new intelligence bureaucracy--another layer on top of the CIA, FBI, National Security Agency and so on--just as critics of this reform predicted. Director John Negroponte has hired many able men and women, but they are part of a staff heading toward 1,000 or more, including a new team of analysts on top of those at the CIA, the DIA, State Department, et cetera. Mr. Negroponte has also assumed the intelligence supervisory role that used to be filled by the CIA director, and he is clearly Mr. Bush's main intelligence adviser.
"The result is that little has changed--except that a new bureaucracy has been created," wrote 9/11 Commissioner John Lehman last autumn in the Washington Post. Well, now he tells us. Mr. Lehman and other Commissioners had said not to worry about such a prospect when they were selling this bureaucratic redecoration to us back in 2004. Has there ever been a more practiced group of Monday morning quarterbacks than the 9/11 Commission?
A clearer-eyed view of our intelligence woes comes from federal judge Richard Posner, who has studied the current reorganization and is underwhelmed, if not alarmed. In a new analysis for the American Enterprise Institute, he writes that the DNI "may, though I hope will not, engulf many of the responsibilities of the CIA and demote the agency to little more than a spy service." The Pentagon still controls most of the national intelligence agencies (such as the NSA), while the FBI remains essentially unreformed and is encroaching on CIA turf, despite its manifest intelligence failures before 9/11.
Perhaps this shrinking of the CIA is necessary if the agency has become as politicized and ungovernable as it sometimes seems from the outside. In that case, Mr. Bush would be better off shutting Langley altogether and rebuilding an intelligence service from the ground up under the DNI. This being Washington, where inertia rules, that isn't likely to happen. So we are probably left with the hope that Mr. Bush will choose a new director who can work with Mr. Negroponte to make the agency more effective.
Given the way Mr. Goss was roughed up, despite having worked at the CIA himself as a younger man, Mr. Bush shouldn't acquiesce and pick a Langley insider. We'd recommend Rudy Giuliani or Paul Wolfowitz, assuming either would take the job. Or better yet, make one of those two the DNI, and move Mr. Negroponte over to CIA. That would get everyone's attention, especially al Qaeda's.