Hogan's Alley

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Merry-Go-Round At CIA

Whatever develops as the cause of Porter Goss' precipitous departure as CIA Director, no American should take any comfort in yet another of a recent history of short term stays in the position. As the Times reports this morning, the total history of CIA has been one of frequent turnover at the helm. There have been 18 directors in the 60 year history of the agency.

In an age of terrorism and real, physical danger for Americans, we are being treated to what will now be the third full-time director since 9/11/01. Goss and his successor's term in office will further be complicated by the still-unsettled restructuring following the findings of the 9/11 Commission that placed John Negroponte as the uber-czar of all American intelligence operations.

Further destabilizing the agency is the recent departure of many senior staff and, if reports of the appointment of Gen. Hayden as the President's next nominee are correct, a long agonizing approval process by the Senate. The Democrats smell blood in the water. They will want to know if there are any connections to the Duke Cunningham scandal and they will grill Hayden over his direction of the NSA data mining program. It will be months until staff at CIA are led by someone who can focus his or her efforts on the job at hand.

The future of our safety does not look promising. Lest we forget, this is the agency that missed the dangers of al Qaeda and blew the facts on WMD in Iraq after then DCI George Tenet had been in office for two years. This is an agency that has not yet found its sea legs in the reconfigured national intelligence superstructure. Even if Bush's new director stays in office for the balance of his term, a new director could be appointed after the next presidential election in two and a half years. This is no way to run an airline, much less an agency crucial to our security.