Goss Orders CIA to Back Administration Policies

New C.I.A. Chief Tells Workers to Back Administration Policies [RSS] (Douglas Jehl, NYT)

Porter J. Goss, the new intelligence chief, has told Central Intelligence Agency employees that their job is to “support the administration and its policies in our work,” a copy of an internal memorandum shows. “As agency employees we do not identify with, support or champion opposition to the administration or its policies,” Mr. Goss said in the memorandum, which was circulated late on Monday. He said in the document that he was seeking “to clarify beyond doubt the rules of the road.” While his words could be construed as urging analysts to conform with administration policies, Mr. Goss also wrote, “We provide the intelligence as we see it – and let the facts alone speak to the policymaker.”

The memorandum suggested an effort by Mr. Goss to spell out his thinking as he embarked on what he made clear would be a major overhaul at the agency, with further changes to come. The changes to date, including the ouster of the agency’s clandestine service chief, have left current and former intelligence officials angry and unnerved. Some have been outspoken, including those who said Tuesday that they regarded Mr. Goss’s warning as part of an effort to suppress dissent within the organization. In recent weeks, White House officials have complained that some C.I.A. officials have sought to undermine President Bush and his policies.

At a minimum, Mr. Goss’s memorandum appeared to be a swipe against an agency decision under George J. Tenet, his predecessor as director of central intelligence, to permit a senior analyst at the agency, Michael Scheuer, to write a book and grant interviews that were critical of the Bush administration’s policies on terrorism. One former intelligence official said he saw nothing inappropriate in Mr. Goss’s warning, noting that the C.I.A. had long tried to distance itself and its employees from policy matters. “Mike exploited a seam in the rules and inappropriately used it to express his own policy views,” the official said of Mr. Scheuer. “That did serious damage to the agency, because many people, including some in the White House, thought that he was being urged by the agency to take on the president. I know that was not the case.” But a second former intelligence official said he was concerned that the memorandum and the changes represented an effort by Mr. Goss to stifle independence. “If Goss is asking people to color their views and be a team player, that’s not what people at C.I.A. signed up for,” said the former intelligence official. The official and others interviewed in recent days spoke on condition that they not be named, saying they did not want to inflame tensions at the agency.

The story says that the NYT has a complete copy of the memo but they provide no link to it so that I can read the whole thing. The key question is whether Goss’ instructions refer to public utterances like Scheuer’s or to analysis for presidential consumption. If it’s the former, I wholeheartedly agree with Goss. If the latter, Goss needs to be fired immediately. It is very much a function of intelligence analysts to provide policy recommendations. They must, however, be geared to the strategic objectives of the civilian leadership. The Administration must be provided with the best estimates intelligence professionals can deliver of the implications of various policy decisions; often, that leads to rather obvious policy implications. Analysts must, therefore, be simultaneously free to deliver analyis free from political pressure and yet cognizant of the policy goals of the Administration so that they can deliver useful analysis.

Having agency officials publically criticizing the Administration, however, will undermine the influence of that analysis. The State Department has already rendered itself virtually useless during Republican administrations because of the, correct in my view, impression that most career diplomats are Democrats with rather liberal viewpoints and a contempt for the Republican agenda. As a result, most Republican presidents, since at least Richard Nixon’s time, have tended to run their foreign policy through the National Security Council and bypassing the excellent knowledge bank at State. If intelligence agencies get a reputation as being partisan–in either direction–they will suffer the same fate.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. NJvoter says:

    Excuse me, but does anyone else see the CIA being transformed into the secret intelligence wing of the Karl Rove empire, in a KGB-like way that will affect the liberty of millions, and send us to generations of darkness?