CIA director lays out vision, takes heat from staff

Associated Press
Published September 23, 2005

WASHINGTON - CIA director Porter Goss sketched out his vision for the spy agency in a speech to employees Thursday and took some tough questions from the audience about high-level departures and other concerns.

Goss spoke for almost an hour in the agency's auditorium, covering such issues as new methods of protecting the identities of clandestine officers and a push to rely less on information from friendly intelligence services. A transcript of the speech was given to reporters Thursday evening.

In questions later, which were not made public, Goss found himself facing queries about the recent departure of a high-level clandestine operative and his plans for the agency's best-known division, the clandestine service, the Associated Press reported.

Goss, a former Republican congressman from Florida who was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a one-time CIA officer, has overseen the agency for a year. At the urging of the White House and a series of intelligence commissions, Goss is making changes to fix problems related to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the prewar intelligence on Iraq.

When Goss took office last fall, a number of high-level agency personnel departed. This month, another senior manager in the clandestine service, Robert Richer, also left over differences about Goss' changes. Goss was pressed for details Thursday.

"It was a very candid meeting," said his spokeswoman Jennifer Millerwise Dyke. But "he wouldn't answer specifics about Mr. Richer's departure."

She said Goss made clear that staffers have a right to confidentiality.

Goss said the agency will "not rely solely" on information from friendly intelligence services. Goss said the agency will do more on its own.

He said he encourages calculated risks. "And when it goes wrong, I will support you," he said.

He was also critical of "surging," or sending numerous CIA personnel into trouble spots, as has been the case in countries including Iraq. Instead, the CIA should establish a foothold in countries to gain expertise. "We are not in all of the places we should be," he said.