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Archive for Sunday, November 28, 2004

Transition rough for CIA, new boss

November 28, 2004

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— 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 widely believed to have angered the White House. Goss also said he intended 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 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.

Former intelligence officials, both supportive and critical of Goss, say his situation is reminiscent of when Stansfield Turner took over the agency in 1977 or John Deutsch in 1995. Both made waves.

Deutsch inherited an embattled CIA, struggling with the Aldrich Ames spy scandal and disoriented by the dissolution of its antagonist, the Soviet Union. Deutsch brought with him aides from the Pentagon, many of whom managed to rub the CIA's establishment the wrong way.

Turner took over after a series of commissions found the CIA had kept files on U.S. citizens, directly plotted assassinations of heads of government and engaged in other abuses of power. The admiral brought in aides from the Navy, who some say were perceived as adversaries of the agency's career staff.

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

In an interview, Turner questioned how Goss and his aides were 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."

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