Bush names ex-spy to head the CIA

President Bush nominated Florida Rep. Porter Goss as the new CIA director. Goss has had a long career as a former spy, a politician and a congressional expert on intelligence.

Porter Goss -- former spy, low-key politician and powerful Florida congressman -- was offered his dream job Tuesday: heading the Central Intelligence Agency that he has monitored, prodded, praised and castigated for seven years in the U.S. House.

His nomination by President Bush is a fitting cap to a varied career for the House Intelligence Committee chairman, 65, who became an officer in the agency's clandestine service after he graduated from Yale in 1960.

Goss was forced into early retirement by a rare, debilitating blood disorder. He says little about his spy career except that he ''worked hard in a lot of strange places overseas,'' and spent time in South Florida during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

The president's announcement came during a morning appearance with Goss in the White House Rose Garden.

''He knows the agency inside and out,'' Bush said. ``He knows the agency, and he knows what is needed to strengthen it.''

A number of Democrats questioned Goss' selection, but his nomination received a boost from Florida's two Democratic senators, Sens. Bob Graham and Bill Nelson.

Graham, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he was working the phones Tuesday on Goss' behalf.

''I don't expect it to be a hard sell,'' said Graham, adding that he expects Goss to be confirmed ``as quickly as possible.''

Goss, who grew up in Waterbury, Conn., moved with his wife, Mariel, and their four children to recuperate on Sanibel Island, where other former CIA agents lived. He cofounded a newspaper, became mayor, protected Sanibel from overdevelopment, and, later, was appointed to the Lee County Commission.

When Rep. Connie Mack successfully ran for the Senate in 1988, Goss succeeded him in the House. He gained a reputation as a quiet conservative-to-moderate Republican who quickly became a leader on intelligence issues and the Everglades.

''He doesn't issue press releases, he's not looking for the TV cameras, but he became the go-to guy for anything involving intelligence,'' said Rep. Mark Foley, a Palm Beach Republican.

Two years ago, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney leaned on Goss to serve one more term as Intelligence chairman, with the threat of terrorism and war plans for Iraq looming.

Goss' colleagues like to tell the story of how they were leaving a meeting when the vice president button-holed the congressman, who was planning to retire at the end of 2002.

''Not so fast, Goss. My instructions are not to let you leave until you change your mind,'' Cheney told him, according to Foley.

Now Bush and Cheney have prevailed again, nominating Goss to head the CIA. And the stakes are higher. Last month the CIA was hit by scathing criticism in the Sept. 11 Commission report and from the Senate Intelligence Committee on its failures.

Another occasional critic is Goss himself. With his CIA background, Goss is viewed by many on Capitol Hill as close to the agency -- too close for some.

For years he has tried to bolster the agency's budget and rejuvenate its mission, and he defended CIA Director George Tenet after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

But this summer he oversaw a committee report that blasted the clandestine efforts of the CIA, saying the agency ``continues down a road leading over a proverbial cliff.''

Goss insists he has always been tough on the agency. Eleanor Hill, staff director of the congressional inquiry into the Sept. 11 attacks, said Goss ''always backed up the staff'' in its critical findings on the CIA, FBI and other agencies.

''He was tough on the agency when he needed to be tough,'' said Hill, now in private practice. ``His style is not tyrannical or antagonistic, so some may see him as too friendly, but I don't think that's the case.''

It's rare for a leader in Congress to take over an agency he oversaw, but Hill sees that as a plus: ``He knows the history, the track record, the vulnerabilities of the CIA, and that's a real advantage for the director's job.''

This year, Goss has become more partisan and criticized Democrat John Kerry as ''dangerously naive'' for the Bush-Cheney campaign. But he is not known for partisanship.

Goss and Graham co-chaired the Sept. 11 investigation ''in a way many thought was impossible,'' Hill said. ``It was a major, highly visible inquiry on a hot subject at a tense time -- and they did it in a bipartisan way.''

The notion of making the overseer of the CIA its new director has its detractors. Some Democrats complain that Goss has been too protective of the Bush administration on Iraq.

Mel Goodman, a former CIA and State Department analyst, said he is ``leery of people who come from the political environment on the Hill.''

''You become a deal-maker, or a schmoozer like Tenet,'' said Goodman, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy. He said the CIA would be better off with a professional as director, such as a career diplomat.

Goss' supporters and Goodman agree on one point -- that the CIA needs reform and strong leadership.

[Source: By Frank Davies, The Miami Herald, Miami, Us, 11Aug04]

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