Porter Goss Tabbed to Head CIA

Bush Chooses Rep. Goss to Head CIA

President Bush has chosen Rep. Porter Goss (news, bio, voting record), chairman of the House intelligence committee and a one-time Army intelligence operative, to be the new director of the CIA, it was learned Tuesday. A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Bush planned to announce the selection of the 65-year-old Goss later Tuesday during a White House appearance. Goss, a Republican from Florida, had been mentioned prominently in speculation about a successor to departed CIA Director George Tenet, who left amid a torrent of criticism of the agency’s handling of prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Bush’s decision also comes in the wake of the president’s embrace of a key recommendation of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks: creation of a new intelligence czar to oversee the activities of the CIA and more than a dozen other intelligence agencies. Speaking last week of the pleas for change by the 9/11 commission, Goss had said “we cannot afford to make changes blindly or in an unnecessary haste. We can ill-afford to rush to judgment any more than we can tolerate needless delay.”

Although Goss was among the leading candidates mentioned when Tenet announced his resignation earlier this year, there had been some recent speculation that his prospects had dimmed, due at least in part to the unavoidable controversies that surround a leading player in Congress. *** The Connecticut-born Goss graduated from Yale in 1960 and launched a clandestine career, working for Army intelligence for two years and eventually the CIA’s most well-known division, the Directorate of Operations. When he got into politics, Goss had to get special permission to reveal that he was associated with “the agency” for roughly a decade, reportedly in Europe and Latin America. Goss still doesn’t discuss classified details of his work, although he has said he was deployed in Miami during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. “I had some very interesting moments in the Florida Straits,” Goss told The Washington Post in 2002.


Goss has served in Congress for 16 years, including eight years as House Intelligence chairman. He planned on making his 2000 election bid his last, but decided to stay on after the Sept. 11 attacks — with encouragement from Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. The opportunity was sweetened when Republicans waived a rule limiting his chairmanship to six years. Along with fellow Floridian, Democratic Sen. Bob Graham, then the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Goss led an joint congressional inquiry into the attacks, which identified numerous miscalculations that prevented authorities from derailing the attacks.

With his well-placed experience, Washington insiders have speculated for some time that he could take over as director of central intelligence, overseeing the CIA and 14 other agencies that make up the intelligence community. Only one CIA director was also a member of Congress: former President George H.W. Bush.

This is very interesting, if an odd move. As I’ve noted before and Steven Taylor reminds us today, there is an excellent chance that Goss will not make it through the Senate confirmation process. Further, while I understand the politics here, the logic of picking a new DCI/CIA Director before we’ve decided whether to create a Director of National Intelligence and what powers he will have escapes me.

Hat tip: Command Post

Update: It’s official: WaPo – Bush Picks Rep. Goss for Director of CIA

President Bush today named Florida Republican Rep. Porter J. Goss to head the Central Intelligence Agency, describing him as a “reformer” who “knows the agency and knows what’s needed to strengthen it.” Goss, a former officer in the CIA’s clandestine service, has long been mentioned as the leading candidate to replace George J. Tenet, who resigned as CIA director in July. But there had been some delay in part because of the potential for opposition in Congress in the middle of the presidential campaign. Administration officials said the announcement was intended to send a signal of stability at a time when the intelligence services are roiled by competing reorganization plans. Officials said they were especially concerned about the morale of the CIA’s employees.

Bush took pains during a Rose Garden announcement this morning to praise the agency’s work, while at the same time acknowledging the need for change. Bush called Goss “the right man to lead this important agency at this critical moment in our nation’s history.” He said he looked forward to Goss’s judgments “as to how best to implement broader intelligence reforms,” including the recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission, which have been partially embraced by the president and are currently the subject of congressional hearings.

While some in Congress have pushed for adoption of all of the Sept. 11 commission’s 41 recommendations, Goss has been among those urging caution, saying a rush to reform the intelligence community could lead to the wrong changes. “The unintended consequences of action we take could wreak havoc if we get it wrong,” Goss said during one hearing to consider reforms. “So we aren’t going to go there.” “What many American’s don’t realize,” Goss said in a brief statement as he stood with Bush today, “is that we’ve got an awful lot of people around the globe doing very, very hard work with long hours and in dangerous conditions. The essence of our intelligence capability is people, and we have some wonderful Americans who are doing a great job.”

As I’ve noted previously, I agree.

Although administration officials have privately predicted that winning Senate confirmation for Goss would be little more than a formality, some Democrats have disagreed, predicting that such hearings would assertively probe both the CIA’s performance under Bush and Goss’s fitness for the job.

Even with a war going on, I suppose it’s too much to ask that partisan politics be set aside for the good of the country when an election is less than 90 days away.

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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. Kathy K says:

    There are some Democrats who will back him. I hope there will be enough. Goss is no wingnut. He’s intelligent and has a good deal of common sense, as well as experience in the field. The CIA needs fixing, whether or not there’s a ‘terrorism czar’. Goss is the man to do it.

    This is an unpaid endorsement of Porter Goss from someone in his district. I’ve been following his career since I moved here in 1984 and I have the utmost respect for the man, even if I disagree with many of his politcal opinions.

  2. McGehee says:

    Further, while I understand the politics here, the logic of picking a new DCI/CIA Director before we’ve decided whether to create a Director of National Intelligence and what powers he will have escapes me.

    You’re kidding, right? The logical thing to do, when you don’t know for certain whether the situation is going to change, is to act on the assumption that it won’t.

  3. James Joyner says:

    It’s not as if this is happening in a vacuum. We can decide whether there’s going to be a DNI and so forth within a month, and then move on to filling slots. Why put Goss in as DCI only to later either strip him of much of his power or have to go through this all over again when he’s elevated to DNI and then a new CIA Director must be appointed?

    It’s not like McLaughlin can’t hold down the fort for a couple months if need be.

  4. McGehee says:

    James, I think you and I both can think of an answer to that, and I for one wouldn’t mind if we were right.

  5. KipEsquire says:

    The AP: “Retired Adm. Stansfield Turner, who was CIA chief during the Carter administration and supports Sen. John Kerry’s presidential bid, said Goss’ selection marked ‘a bad day for the CIA.’ Goss was chosen simply ‘to help George Bush win votes in Florida,’ he said.

    Just how dumb do they think Floridians are?

  6. McGehee says:

    Stansfield Turner is the last man I’d ask for advice on who should head the CIA. If Turner’s against the Goss appointment, it must be good.

  7. richard says:

    I can only marvel at the prescience of the writers here. 🙂

  8. Reggie says: