Friday, November 26, 2004

More Resignations at the CIA

The New York Times
November 25, 2004

2 Top Officials Are Reported to Quit C.I.A.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24 - Two more senior officials of the Central Intelligence Agency's clandestine service are stepping down, intelligence officials said Wednesday, in the latest sign of upheaval in the agency under its new chief, Porter J. Goss.

As the chiefs of the Europe and Far East divisions, the two officials have headed spying operations in some of the most important regions of the world and were among a group known as the barons in the highest level of clandestine service, the Directorate of Operations.

The directorate has been the main target of an overhaul effort by Mr. Goss and his staff. Its chief, Stephen R. Kappes, and his deputy resigned this month after a dispute with the new management team.

An intelligence official said that the two division chiefs were retiring from the agency and that there would be no public announcement. Neither could be named, the official said, because they are working under cover.

A former intelligence official described the two as "very senior guys" who were stepping down because they did not feel comfortable with new management.

In a memorandum to agency employees last week, Mr. Goss warned that more personnel changes were coming as part of what he described as an effort to rebuild the ability of the agency to perform its core mission of stealing secrets.

Last week, President Bush directed Mr. Goss to draw up detailed plans in 90 days for a major overhaul of the agency, to address shortcomings that have become evident with intelligence failures related to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and prewar assessments of Iraq.

The directive included a call for 50 percent increases in crucial operations and analytical personnel, a goal that the agency had already set in a five-year strategic plan drafted in December under George J. Tenet, the previous director of central intelligence. Many of the agency's top officials, including John E. McLaughlin, the deputy director, and A. B. Krongard, the No. 3 official, have stepped down or announced plans to do so since Mr. Goss took office in September. The upheaval has been most extensive in the operations directorate, made up of spies and spymasters who have made careers out of stealing secrets.

The clandestine service is a proud closed fraternity and one that sees itself as fiercely loyal and not risk-averse. It is also a group that has recoiled in recent weeks at the criticisms leveled at the agency, including comments this month from Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who accused the agency of acting "almost as a rogue" institution.

Mr. Goss is a former spy and a member of the clandestine service who worked in Latin America in the 60's. More recently, he was a Republican congressman and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and he has made plain his view that the current crop of case officers is not bold enough.

What is playing out in the agency headquarters is no less than a clash of cultures on a scale not seen there. since the Carter administration, when Stansfield Turner, a retired admiral, took a half-dozen Navy officers with him to the agency in 1977.

Under Mr. Goss, it is a cadre of former House Republican aides, not Navy officers, who dominate the new management team. This month, they have toppled Mr. Kappes and his deputy, Michael Sulick, in a way that former intelligence officials say has shown little regard for the tradition-bound clandestine service which has always prized rank, experience and lines of authority.

"The C.I.A. is a line organization like the military," said Christopher Mellon, a former intelligence official at the Defense Department and the Senate Intelligence Committee. "When staff guys insert themselves, that causes confusion and discontent."

Under Mr. Goss, the extent of the rebellion in the ranks is not clear. Much of the anger has been focused on a former Congressional aide, Patrick Murray, the chief of staff, who is said to have raised the hackles of some station chiefs around the world. The atmosphere has so deteriorated in the agency that some career officers have begun using derogatory nicknames for Mr. Murray and his colleagues, former intelligence officials said.

A backdrop to the tensions have been accusations from some Republicans that the agency sought over the summer to undermine Mr. Bush's re-election. Mr. McCain, in suggesting that the agency had been disloyal, has singled out the disclosure of intelligence reports about Iraq whose conclusions were at odds with administration assertions about the war.

In a rare public rebuttal, John E. McLaughlin, a career C.I.A. official who is stepping down as the agency's No. 2 official after less than two months as Mr. Goss's deputy, wrote in an op-ed article on Tuesday in The Washington Post that the accusation was unjustified.

"C.I.A. officers are career professionals who work for the president," Mr. McLaughlin wrote. "They see this as a solemn duty, regardless of which party holds the White House. Has everyone ruled out the possibility that the intelligence community during this period was simply doing its job - calling things as it saw them - and that people with a wide array of motives found it advantageous to put out this material when the C.I.A.'s views seemed at odds with the administration's?"

Still, the memorandum that Mr. Goss issued last week advised his employees that the agency's job was to "support the administration and its policies" and to do nothing to associate themselves with opposition to the administration.

People close to Mr. Goss and Mr. Murray, 40, say the two believe that major shakeups are needed.

"What's going on at the agency now is very clearly a group of deskbound bureaucrats who don't want the system to change," said Gardiner Peckham, a longtime friend of Mr. Murray and, like him, a former Republican Congressional official. "Basically, they're looking at a president, a director and his chief of staff who are change agents. There are some who would like to stand in the way and prevent that change from taking place, and they shouldn't win."

Mr. Turner, as intelligence chief under President Jimmy Carter, had an agenda that was the opposite in many ways from Mr. Goss's. He sought to shrink the clandestine service and rein it in, in reaction to the abuses of the 60's and 70's. Mr. Goss wants to make it bigger and bolder, in response to failures in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks and in prewar intelligence on Iraq.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Turner said he recognized the challenge that Mr. Goss was facing.

"Criticize the D.O., and you're in trouble," Mr. Turner said, using an abbreviation for the operations directorate. "Try to modify the way that operation works, and if you're an outsider, you're in trouble."

Mr. Goss and his team, including Mr. Murray, have never made a secret of their view that the clandestine service was in need of major change. A report by the House Intelligence Committee issued in June, when Mr. Goss was its chairman and Mr. Murray its staff director, portrayed the operations directorate in scathing terms, disparaging what it called "a continued political aversion to operations risk" and calling for "immediate and far-reaching changes."

"The nimble, flexible, core-mission oriented enterprise the D.O. once was, is becoming just a fleeting memory," the report said. "With each passing day, it becomes harder to resurrect."

The report so infuriated the agency that Mr. Tenet, who was still director of central intelligence, shot off an angry letter to Mr. Goss.

To replace Mr. Kappes, Mr. Goss has appointed a career covert officer whose name has not been announced because he is undercover but who has been most recently director of the Counterterrorism Center at the agency.

An agency spokesman declined to comment on the internal dispute.