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Profile: Choice to Head CIA Has Long Experience in Intelligence - 2004-08-10


President Bush's nominee to head the Central Intelligence Agency, U.S. Congressman Porter Goss, has long experience with the intelligence community and in politics.

Mr. Goss, a Republican from Florida, is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and in that post, led the congressional probe of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

He also serves on the Homeland Security Committee and the Rules Committee, which is responsible for how legislation is presented. But he is not seeking re-election in November.

Before he was first elected to the House in 1988, Mr. Goss served as a CIA case officer.

After graduating from Yale University, Mr. Goss spent two years with U.S. Army intelligence and then went to work for the CIA from 1962 to 1971. Although he has said little about his time with in the CIA, he once told The Washington Post that he did photograph interpretation during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

Mr. Goss was forced to retire from the agency when he came down with a debilitating infection. He became involved in politics when his health improved.

President Bush, in announcing the nomination, praised Mr. Goss' experience with the CIA. "He knows the agency, and he knows what is needed to strengthen it. He understands the importance of human intelligence," he said.

Mr. Goss' nomination comes amid an overhaul of the U.S. intelligence community and as the CIA is struggling to address intelligence failures relating to the September 11th attacks and Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, which have never been found.

Mr. Goss, who must be confirmed by the Senate, says he is ready for the job. "The essence of our intelligence capability is people. And we have some wonderful Americans doing a great job," he said. "I used to be part of them when I worked for CIA. I'm very proud to be associated with them again."

President Bush's challenger for the White House, Democratic Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, called for "fair, bipartisan and expeditious confirmation hearings" for Mr. Goss. He also expressed hope Mr. Goss would support the creation of what he called a more important position, that of national intelligence director who would coordinate intelligence matters, as recommended by the bipartisan commission that investigated the September 11 attacks.

Other senators praised the nomination. Senator John Warner, a Virginia Republican and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement that Mr. Goss would serve as "an important bridge between the executive branch and the legislative branch" as the government works together "to build the best intelligence community possible."

But some Democrats believe Mr. Goss, who has been a vocal supporter of President Bush, is too political for the CIA job.

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, was asked about Mr. Goss as a potential nominee for CIA director last month on NBC's Meet the Press.

"I do not think that anybody up for consideration should have a political background," he said.

The Republican chairman of the panel, Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, had a different view.

"I do not know anybody in Washington who does not have a political background of some sort," he said. "There has been a statement by those on Jay's side that he is too partisan. I do not happen to share that view."

If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Goss would succeed George Tenet, who resigned last month. Acting Director John McLaughlin is running the agency now.

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