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US Senate Panel Approves CIA Chief Nominee  - 2004-09-21

The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee has approved, by a 12-4 vote, Republican Congressman Porter Goss to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency and sent the nomination to the full Senate for expected confirmation.

Those who opposed Mr. Goss' nomination are Democrats who are concerned the nominee may be too partisan for the job.

The top Democrat on the panel, Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, is troubled by comments Mr. Goss has made in support of President Bush and critical of Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, and questions whether Mr. Goss can be independent-minded.

Senator Rockefeller believes Mr. Goss is tainted by politics, and for that reason, he argues that no one who has served in Congress should be considered for the post of CIA director.

"Nobody who has been in politics, and particularly recently, should do this," he said.

But the Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, notes that Mr. Goss vowed in two confirmation hearings to be an objective CIA director.

"The gentleman has indicated he is independent, he will be non-partisan, and he will be aggressive," he said.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, speaking on the Senate floor, says the Senate will likely vote on the nomination this week.

"It only makes sense that we have the post of director of Central Intelligence be filled at this important time," he said.

Congressman Goss, until recently, was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and played a key role in probing intelligence failures prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He has served nearly 16 years in Congress.

Before his election to Congress, where he has served for nearly 16 years, Mr. Goss spent a decade as a CIA agent.

If confirmed, Mr. Goss would succeed George Tenet, who resigned as CIA director in July.

As the Intelligence Committee was voting on Mr. Goss' nomination, two other Senate panels were also working on intelligence matters.

The Government Affairs Committee began marking up legislation to implement the proposals of the September 11th commission aimed at preventing another terrorist attack. The committee hopes to have the measure on the Senate floor next week. The House is working on its own version of the legislation.

Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing on proposals for intelligence reform, which include the establishment of a national intelligence director and a counterterrorism center to coordinate the gathering and sharing of intelligence.

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger urged lawmakers to take time, perhaps six or eight months, to consider the proposals, saying the political pressures of a presidential election campaign are bound to affect their thinking.

"The urgency should not trump substance," he said.

Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, agrees.

"I think we should wait until next year, when we can take more time, and not act in such haste," he said "The more scrutiny we can give to the various proposals that are on the table, the better off we will be."

But Mr. Byrd's fellow Democrat, Senator Fritz Hollings of South Carolina, criticized those who want to postpone intelligence reform.

"It strikes me as the old political maxim that when in doubt, do nothing, and stay in doubt all the time," he said.

Most lawmakers agree. Majority Leader Frist wants the Senate to vote on the measure before it adjourns October 8.