May 9, 2006
This latest personnel shift taking place at Langley really makes me wonder what is going on inside the Beltway. The abrupt announcement by that Porter Goss was resigning as head of the CIA on Friday seemed highly irregular. It's not exactly the best way for Tony Snow to start his new job as White House spokesman. When Goss was named by Bush to that post back in November 2004, just after his reelection triumph, there was a consensus that the CIA was in need of housecleaning. Given that Goss seems to have failed in that task, in spite of his professional experience in the intelligence field, some explanation is due. Was he really carrying out a political witch hunt against enemies of Bush inside The Agency that had to be called off, or was it just a matter of flawed managerial style?
President Bush's choice of Gen. Michael Hayden to replace Porter Goss as head of the CIA sparked quick (negative) reaction by some Republicans in Congress. Some complain about putting a military man in charge of a civilian intelligence agency, but several others have held that post before, most notably Adm. Stansfield Turner, who was Jimmy Carter's choice. Hayden served as head of the National Security Agency from 1999 to 2005, and has cultivated good relations with members of Congress. At his introductory press conference shown by C-SPAN, he came across as sincerely committed to maintaining a proper balance between civil rights and national security, a dilemma that was cast into sharp relief by the surveillance of international phone calls.
What is puzzling about the selection of Hayden is that it seems unlikely to mollify the CIA civilian career analysts who resented Porter Goss, who had been a Republican congressman. In today's Washington Post, Dana Priest advances the conjecture that the selection of Hayden is aimed at "reining in" Donald Rumsfeld and his plans to expand the size and role of military intelligence. Under this scenario, Intelligence Czar John Negroponte would be better equipped to exert influence over the Pentagon spies. To me, that sounds too clever by half, a bureaucratic chair-rotating scheme that is more likely to inflame jealousies and tensions than overcome them. Ms. Priest is the very same reporter whose article brought to light the CIA secret prisons (see April 24), so she is not exactly in a position to be objective about what is going on.
As far as any resistance by the CIA to encroachment by the Pentagon on its bureaucratic "turf," we should remember that the CIA played a leading role in offensive military operations in Afghanistan in October 2001, organizing and supplying Afghan militia units opposed to the Taliban. That struck me as very odd, and potentially troublesome. How about a "trade" of sorts, with the military and civilian spies agreeing to mind each others' own business?
The dapper young P.M. from Oxford, Tony Blair, has lost his "mojo," it would seem. In hopes of satisfying the growing number of dissident members of his Labour Party, he has reshuffled his cabinet, naming his ally Margaret Beckett as Foreign Minister, replacing Jack Straw, who has been demoted to a parliamentary leadership role. This action was in response to the widespread losses by Labour Party candidates in local elections across Britain. Labour won a comfortable majority in the House of Commons last year, when Blair began his third term as P.M., but defections over foreign policy may cost him majority control. Blair is under heavy pressure to give up his post, but he insists he will stay on for the foreseeable future. The man likely to succeed him is Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown. See Washington Post. I saw Blair's press conference on C-SPAN 2 last night, and he does seem to be rattled by all the jeers from within his own party. Like John McCain, he is the darling of politicians belonging to the other party.