Getting control of a rogue agency

Robert Novak:

After President Bush nominated him to be director of central intelligence, Rep. Porter Goss walked across the Capitol to meet with a senator he hardly knew and who had criticized him: John McCain. There he received advice confirming his determination to take a course that soon became the talk of Washington.

McCain told Goss the Central Intelligence Agency is "a dysfunctional organization. It has to be cleaned out." That is, the CIA does not perform its missions. McCain told Goss that as DCI, he must get rid of the old boys and bring in a new team at Langley. Moreover, McCain told me this week, "with CIA leaks intended to harm the re-election campaign of the president of the United States, it is not only dysfunctional but a rogue organization."

Following a mandate from the president for what McCain advised, Goss is cleaning house. The reaction from the old boys confirms those harsh adjectives of "dysfunctional" and "rogue." The nation's capital has become an echo chamber of anti-Goss invective with CIA officials painting a picture for selected reporters of a lightweight House member from Florida, a mere case officer at the CIA long ago, provoking high-level resignations and dismantling a great intelligence service.

Veteran CIA-watchers such as McCain regard the agency as anything but great and commend Goss for taking courageous steps that previous DCIs avoided. George Friedman, head of the Stratfor private intelligence service, refers to Goss's housecleaning as "long overdue."

That cleansing process has been inhibited by the CIA's fear factor as an extraordinary leak machine. Its efficiency was attested to when Goss appointed Michael V. Kostiw, recently staff director of the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Terrorism, as the CIA's executive director. Before Kostiw could check in at Langley, the old boys leaked information that Kostiw was caught shoplifting in 1981 after 10 years as a CIA case officer.

Kostiw then resigned the agency's third-ranking post, though Goss retained him as a special assistant. Kostiw's treatment has enraged people who have known him during a long, successful career in Washington — including John McCain. The senator called Kostiw "one of the finest, most decent men I have ever met."

The story fed by Goss's enemies in the agency is that dedicated career intelligence officers have been replaced by Capitol Hill hacks. Their real fear is that Goss will put an end to the CIA running its own national security policy, which in the last campaign resulted in an overt attempt to defeat Bush for re-election (intensifying after George Tenet left as DCI ).


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