Goss confirmed to head CIA despite criticism

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON — Lawmakers voted 12-4 in a closed Senate Intelligence Committee session Tuesday to approve President Bush’s nomination of Republican Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., to head the CIA, despite Democratic concerns about the politician’s ability to remain non-partisan.

“At times, perhaps, I engaged in debate with a little too much vigor or enthusiasm,” said Goss in defense of charges of partisanship during last week’s Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing. “If confirmed I commit myself to a non-partisan approach to the job of DCI.”

Goss’s nomination aroused no major opposition from the Republicans and he has support of some key Democrats like Minority Leader Tom Daschle (S.D.) and Florida Sens. Bob Graham and Bill Nelson.

“Congressman Goss brings a unique combination of service within the CIA,” said Graham in a press release. “My close work with Congressman Goss on the House-Senate Joint Inquiry into the events of 9-11 and his support for the Joint Inquiry’s recommended reforms of our Intelligence Community give me confidence that he will be a vigorous and visionary leader.”

At the hearing, some Democrats raised issue with the eight-term Congressman’s past positions, including his criticism of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, his initial objections to the 9/11 Commission, and his past stances on intelligence spending.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W Va.) berated Goss for his March op-ed piece titled “Need Intelligence? Don’t Ask John Kerry”, while Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) expressed frustration with Goss’s repeated responses that his record speaks for itself when pressed on tough issues.

“The record is the record, that’s a dismissive comment,” said Durbin. “Whoever briefed you for this hearing and said that when you get in a tight spot over something you have said or done, keep repeating ‘the record is the record,’ did you no great service.”

Bush nominated the 65-year-old Goss in early August to replace former CIA director George Tenet, who resigned over criticisms of the CIA’s handling of the invasion of Iraq and the 2001 terrorism attacks.

During the Cold War Goss worked as a clandestine services case officer with CIA and later served as chairman of the house intelligence committee.

Though it is good that Goss has experience with the CIA, it is dangerous to appoint a politician as director of the agency, said Jason Kichen, a senior at the University of Maryland who spent the past two years working in private intelligence analysis firms.

“When you appoint someone to this sort of position, after they spent the past 20 years doing nothing but politics, and expect him to put all politics aside and just suddenly take on this completely new role, it’s absolutely difficult to do,” Kichen said in an interview. “This is why you don’t typically see congressmen appointed to roles like Secretary of State.”

Goss will be responsible for the CIA and other intelligence agencies, some of which are budgeted by the Defense Department. Though past directors have traditionally focused only on the CIA, the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation for a restructuring of U.S. intelligence would cause for separating Goss’ position into two jobs: that of national intelligence director and that of CIA director. Though it is unclear which position Goss would fill if such a separation took place.

“Our human intelligence capability must improve if we are to continue the exercise our responsibilities in this challenging time,” said Goss before the Senate. “[The intelligence community] must strive to detect, deter, and disrupt future terror attacks on the U.S.”

Goss advocated improving intelligence sharing amongst federal, state, and local law enforcement officials. He also predicted that it would take longer than Tenet’s prediction of five years to train and install the necessary amount of clandestine CIA officers.

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