Friday, June 25, 2004

Re: New CIA Director

MSNBC is reporting that Porter Goss may be nominated for the post imminently. Score one for Veritas. Mr. Goss is currently a congressman representing Florida's 14th District, based in the southern half of the Gulf coast. The largest city is Fort Myers. The district is heavily Republican, so Bush is not stepping on Hastert's toes by giving him a difficult open seat to defend. Goss is both a CIA veteran and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee since 1997. From Goss's Almanac of American Politics Profile:

Some have been critical of having a CIA veteran head the committee and have charged that Goss is too easy on the agency. "I've got to be harsher than the next guy because I was in the business," is one of Goss's replies. "I think I'm a pretty good watchdog, because I know what to look for." As chairman he led efforts to increase intelligence spending in the October 1998 omnibus budget bill. He wanted more spending to enable intelligence agencies to recapitalize technological intelligence collection, rebuild espionage capabilities, develop the ability to respond with covert action to transnational threats and hostile states and to increase analytic depth and breadth.

Goss's concern for security is balanced by a realization that there can be too much secrecy. In October 1999 he and Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan sponsored a bill to create a Public Interest Declassification Board to declassify old documents, especially those relating to historical controversies. When the NSA said it couldn't divulge to Congress details on its Echelon global spying operation, he threatened to cut off funds and the agency changed its stand. Goss has opposed loosening export controls on encryption. After the 2000 election, he urged George W. Bush to keep George Tenet as CIA director, and has generally supported him, despite former Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Shelby's harsh criticism of Tenet. Goss got on much better with Florida Democrat Bob Graham, who replaced Shelby as Senate Intelligence Chairman in June 2001. On the morning of September 11, 2001, Goss and Graham were having breakfast in the Capitol with General Mehmood Ahmed, the chief of Pakistani intelligence, asking him about Osama bin Laden when they were informed of the attacks on the World Trade Center towers. They quickly left the Capitol, but Goss, as Speaker pro tem for the day, hastily convened the House for a one-minute session. Within weeks Goss and Graham got authorization of an 8% increase in intelligence spending.

In February 2002 the House and Senate Intelligence committees began a joint inquiry into intelligence failures before September 11; the two Floridians were co-chairmen. This was a rocky process. The first chief counsel was forced out by Shelby in April 2002. In June he and Graham asked the Justice Department to investigate possible leaks after Dick Cheney called them to complain about a newspaper story about an intercepted phone call in Arabic. In October he and Graham agreed to support an independent commission to go over the same questions; they stressed that their inquiry was only a beginning and not an end. The task, Goss said, was to develop agencies able to assemble and interpret information about terrorist threats. He was critical of the CIA for not having the human intelligence capacity it had in his time. "We are being too namby-pamby about taking risks to get the good penetrations of the hard targets in denied areas." In May 2002 he said the FBI was not prepared to do intelligence work. By December the joint inquiry issued its report. Goss said in March 2002 that the war on terrorism would not be over until the U.S. dealt with Saddam Hussein, but said that we weren't yet prepared militarily; he strongly supported the Iraq war resolution in October 2002.

Goss is the second-ranking Republican on the Rules Committee and has reliably supported the Republican leadership. On most issues he has taken conservative stands. In line with Gulf Coast opinion, he has supported and worked to extend the 1982 moratorium on oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida shore.

To me, his work with Graham is encouraging; his strong support of the war in Iraq was not.

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