New CIA Director's Style Causing Shake-Up

ByABC News via via logo

Nov. 15, 2004 -- -- When former Rep. Porter Goss, a Florida Republican who was the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was sworn in two months ago as the new director of the CIA, he made it clear he wanted to radically change the agency.

"I believe there is too much management at headquarters," Goss said at his Senate confirmation hearing in September. "I don't want to use the word 'bureaucratic,' but maybe it's the right word."

Goss' critics now say his heavy-handed approach is destroying morale at highest levels of the CIA.

The deputy director of the agency, John McLaughlin, resigned Friday. The 32-year CIA veteran had been acting director for two months, following the resignation of George Tenet.

Stephen Kappes, the CIA's deputy director for overseas clandestine operations, and his deputy, Michael Sulick, turned in their resignations today, and more resignations are expected to follow, raising the question of how well, with all these experienced people leaving, the CIA can continue to protect the United States in dangerous times.

Kappes and Sulick have told colleagues they were extremely frustrated with Goss' confrontational style.

"Goss came in with a mandate from the White House to make changes, perhaps many of them valid," said Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., Goss' former colleague on the House Intelligence Committee. "But the way he is going about it is [going] to implode his agency."

Harman claims resignations are coming fast and furious because Goss brought with him to the CIA some arrogant congressional staffers. She described them as abrasive and dismissive.

"After pledging to be nonpartisan, he brought in a highly partisan, inexperienced staff whom we all knew from the House," Harman said. "And they have sent signals throughout the agency which I think are causing very good people to bail out."

But some intelligence analysts say a dramatic overhaul may be just what the agency needs, especially given its failures in assessing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and dismantling al Qaeda before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"Porter Goss is on the right track," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. "He is being savaged by people who want the status quo. And the status quo is not satisfactory."

According to Goss' supporters, the agency has been out of control, recently leaking negative stories to the press to undermine the White House.

"The CIA has got to be kept out of partisan politics," said Stansfield Turner, who was CIA director under President Carter. "And it appears that they were leaking information to influence the election. Porter Goss has now got a difficult problem."

There may be even greater implications. Some agency observers worry that the CIA shake-up could lead to more intelligence failures.

"You can't have this turmoil and a smooth flow of information to the president about what's happening with the terrorists," Turner said.

Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA's Osama bin Laden unit, left the agency Friday. He is also the author, as "Anonymous," of the best seller "Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror," which dissected CIA failures in fighting terrorism. He said the turnover in the agency should not come as a surprise to anyone.

"The current turmoil is a combination of a new administration under Mr. Goss, but also a decade of frustration that the clandestine service has been blamed for many problems that occurred," he said today on ABC News' "Good Morning America."

Scheuer said in a statement that he was leaving the agency because he "concluded that there has not been adequate national debate over the nature of the threat posed by Osama bin Laden and the forces he leads and inspires, and the nature and dimensions of intelligence reform needed to address that threat."

The CIA declined to comment when ABC News contacted the agency about Scheuer's claims.

The apparent turmoil at the agency raises fears about whether the world will become more dangerous for Americans.

The threat from bin Laden may be more serious than many Americans realize, Scheuer said, because of the kind of support that the Saudi has, and the way he has gone about pursuing his goals.

Bin Laden has "a treatise of religious validation" to use nuclear weapons against the United States, Scheuer said, explaining that "basically, he was authorized to use nuclear weapons up to the extent of killing millions of Americans."

And if any terrorist ever had a chance to get nuclear weapons, it seems bin Laden is the one, Scheuer said.

"We have never seen a non-state group approach the acquisition of the weapons as professionally as bin Laden has," he said. "Unfortunately, I think the only time we are going to know he has one is when he detonates it. He intends to use it as a first-strike weapon, not as a deterrent. In terms of the borders, the borders are awfully porous."

Scheuer said the United States must aggressively pursue bin Laden and other terrorists overseas, and not adopt a merely defensive stance, something he claims the United States has not always done.

"We had repeated opportunities to take out Osama bin Laden either through the clandestine service or military means," he said. "Our leaders decided not to take those opportunities."

One of the other problems, he said, has been that too few people have been assigned to hunt the man blamed for the 9/11 attacks.

"I think one of the huge failures is failure to adequately staff the bin Laden unit since 1996," Scheuer said. "It is only since Sen. Feinstein mentioned the issue to Mr. Goss during his confirmation hearings that additional people have been added."

Scheuer said Goss' approach has been "a little heavy-handed," but said he believes it is too early to judge how effective he will be in remaking the agency.

"Much will be told by whether he starts bringing back people from the Cold War era," he said. "If that's the case, I think it is not a good thing."

The agency needs new, experienced people from within the ranks of those who have worked non-state targets like terrorists.

"That's where the threat lies," he said.

ABC News' Pierre Thomas contributed to this report.

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