President Bush moved quickly to fill the vacancy left by the surprise resignation of Central Intelligence Agency director Porter Goss, nominating General Michael Hayden as his replacement.
With less than two years on the job, CIA director Porter Goss tendered his resignation to President Bush on Friday. No reason was given for the surprise departure.
But officials sought to dispel any notion that Goss had been fired. Briefing reporters Monday about the nomination of General Michael Hayden as the new CIA chief, Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte said Goss had seen his tenure as limited.
"I think that Porter himself had talked about being a transitional leader from the old setup prior to intelligence reform to the new one. And the president just felt that this was a good time to appoint new leadership to carry the agenda forward and consolidate the reforms that Mr. Goss had initiated," he said.
But by most accounts Goss' tenure at CIA was stormy. Several top CIA officers quit or retired after clashing with Goss's handpicked staff, most of whom came from the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee. The CIA and the White House were also at odds, particularly over intelligence on Iraq.
In a VOA interview, former CIA chief of European operations Tyler Drumheller says Goss' staff came across as abrasive, and the conflicts cost the CIA some of its most experienced people.
"I think his staffers had some personal conflicts. They had some ideas when they came in. There was an idea afoot that people in the agency were not loyal to the president. And I think that some of that was related to the fact of some of the stuff that I've been talking about that they [Goss' staff] in fact interpreted being told things that they didn't want to hear was in fact disloyalty. That caused some bad feelings, and there was a group of people that left," explained Drumheller.
Drumheller, who worked under Goss for three months before retiring himself, says he was surprised only by the timing of Goss' departure.
"You could sort of feel the negative pressure building on Porter over the months. I expected him to go. I expected him to stay until after the election [next November] for a variety of reasons - one, so he could be there at least two years plus, just to have a round number. And then they also wouldn't have to go through confirmation hearings before the elections," he added.
Goss presided over an era of change at the CIA, including a change in his own job. Until 2004, his true job title was "director of central intelligence," which made him the nominal chief of all government intelligence agencies. But in an effort to better coordinate the 16 agencies dealing in intelligence, Congress passed an intelligence reform bill in 2004 creating a new "director of national intelligence," and Goss was relegated to being just head of the CIA. Some analysts believe he was disappointed that he did not get the new DNI job, which went to John Negroponte.
Analysts say there is likely to be some initial suspicion at CIA headquarters about General Michael Hayden, nominated to be the new agency director. In keeping with the CIA's civilian character, most directors have not been active duty military officers. Plus, says Tyler Drumheller, General Hayden's forte is not in clandestine operations, which is the CIA's primary job.
"It would be better not to have a military officer if you're going to try, like I said, to define what the civilian intelligence service is. And General Hayden's experience is all in signals intelligence [electronic eavesdropping] and administration. But he is a good administrator. I think he's a better administrator than Goss was. At least he'll be better organized. I don't know how it [CIA] will be as an operational service, though," commented Drumheller.
But national intelligence chief John Negroponte defended the choice, saying that General Hayden, who is currently his deputy, has experience in more than just technical intelligence. In what may a bid to soothe fears among CIA staffers, he added that the administration is trying to get former CIA deputy director of operations Stephen Kappes to come out of retirement to be General Hayden's deputy.
"His skill sets, together with General Hayden's background, will form a very nice balance, if you will, of the leadership team at the CIA," said Negroponte.
A veteran officer, Kappes headed all clandestine operations at CIA and negotiated with Libya to renounce its weapons of mass destruction. He and his deputy resigned in November 2004 after reported clashes with Porter Goss and his staff.