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Nomination of CIA Chief Comes at Critical Time for Intelligence Community - 2004-08-10

With the recent terror warnings as a backdrop, President Bush on Tuesday announced his choice to head the Central Intelligence Agency. The announcement comes at a critical time for the intelligence community.

President Bush named Congressman Porter Goss to head the embattled CIA. Mr. Goss is the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a former CIA officer. Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, Mr. Bush applauded Congressman Goss' intelligence experience. "He knows the CIA inside and out. He's the right man to lead this important agency at this critical moment in our nation's history," he said.

Congressman Goss has been previously mentioned as a possible successor to CIA Director George Tenet, who left amid criticism of the agency's handling of prewar intelligence on Iraq. Mr. Bush described Mr. Goss as a reformer and will seek his advice on how to carry out the recommendations of the commission looking into the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

"I look forward to his counsel and his judgments as to how best to implement broader intel reform, including the recommendations of the 9/11 commission," Mr. Bush said.

The president has already embraced a key proposal of the panel: The creation of a new intelligence czar to oversee the activities of all the government's intelligence agencies. If this happens, the CIA chief would lose some power.

Last week, Congressman Goss cautioned against moving too quickly on the Commission's findings. "We cannot afford to make changes blindly, or in unnecessary haste. We can ill afford to rush to judgment anymore than we can tolerate needless delay," he said.

Anthony Arend, an International Law expert at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., sees rebuilding morale at the CIA as Mr. Goss' greatest challenge.

"I think he's going to spend a lot of time with the Director of Operations, with the Director of Intelligence trying to reassure people there is a future for the CIA, and trying to address internal problems there," he said.

Many experts believe Mr. Goss' nomination comes at a pivotal time. Following the March terrorist attacks in Madrid, there are fears terrorists could try similar attacks in the United States to influence the upcoming presidential election.

Mr. Goss says he and the agency are up to the task. "What many American's don't realize is that we've got an awful lot of people around the globe doing very, very hard work, long hours and dangerous situations."

Before Mr. Goss can step into his new role, the U.S. Senate must confirm his nomination.