The Republican-led U.S. Senate has confirmed Congressman Porter Goss to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency by 77 to 17 votes, despite opposition from Democrats, who say he is too partisan.
Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, spoke for many lawmakers in his party, when questioned whether Mr. Goss could be an objective CIA director based on past comments he made praising President Bush and criticizing Democratic presidential nominee, Senator John Kerry.
"He has made a number of statements relative to intelligence matters, many in the past year, that are in fact highly partisan, and display a willingness on his part to use intelligence issues as a political broadsword against members of the Democratic party," said Mr. Rockefeller.
Mr. Rockefeller, speaking on the Senate floor, also questioned Mr. Goss' commitment to reform. He said the congressman, who until recently served as the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, did not go far enough in probing intelligence lapses prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and faulty intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
But in two confirmation hearings, Mr. Goss repeatedly emphasized his commitment to reform, and vowed to be an independent CIA director. It is a point underscored by the Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas.
"During his confirmation hearings, Mr. Goss showed the qualities that we want to see in a good DCI [director of central intelligence]," said Mr. Roberts. "They are, coolness under pressure, a willingness to look at alternative views, and very important, a willingness to take a few licks [criticisms] for past judgments. Most important of all, he demonstrated his ability to put the lawmaker's so-called partisan hat, aside, and take up the strictly nonpartisan duties of this critical executive branch office."
Before his election to Congress, where he has served for nearly 16 years, Mr. Goss spent a decade as a CIA officer.
He is the first former CIA officer since William Casey, in 1981, to be nominated for the CIA post. He is also the first lawmaker since the elder George Bush, in 1976, to be chosen for the job.
Once sworn in by President Bush, Mr. Goss will succeed George Tenet, who resigned in July. Mr. Tenet's deputy, John McLaughlin, has been serving as acting director of the agency.
Mr. Goss's tenure at the CIA could be short-lived if Democratic presidential nominee Kerry wins the November election and decides to choose a new director.
The Senate confirmation vote comes as Congress is considering creating the position of national intelligence director to oversee all 15 agencies that conduct intelligence, including the CIA. The bipartisan federal commission that probed the September 11th attacks recommended creating the post, among other proposals.
Senator Roberts of the Intelligence Committee says if the reforms become law, he believes Mr. Goss would become a prime candidate to be the country's first national intelligence director.