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2 More Top CIA Officials Quit Over New Leadership

Times Staff Writer

The resignations of two more senior CIA officials Monday fueled debate in the intelligence community over whether the agency was tumbling into turmoil under new Director Porter J. Goss, or was taking painful but necessary steps toward fixing serious problems.

In the latest in a series of high-profile departures, the top two officials in the CIA’s clandestine service quit after clashing with one of Goss’ senior aides.

Stephen R. Kappes, the deputy director for operations, and his deputy, Michael J. Sulick, each had served in the agency for 23 years. Both are leaving just weeks into Goss’ tenure, amid signs of increasing acrimony between the agency’s old guard and what critics describe as an often-abrasive new regime.

The departures alarmed agency veterans, who said morale was plummeting under Goss’ stewardship and that the agency was increasingly in disarray at a time when it was struggling to stay abreast of terrorist threats and the insurgency in Iraq.

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Sen. John D. “Jay” Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, expressed concern that the drain of talent and ensuing confusion could spin out of control.

“Goss must take immediate steps to stabilize the situation at the CIA,” Rockefeller said in a written statement. “There is no doubt that changes needed to take place at the CIA.... However, the departure of highly respected and competent individuals at such a crucial time is a grave concern.”

Even some critics of Goss said they were dismayed by the agency’s reaction to the arrival of its first new director in more than seven years. They accused senior CIA officials of seeking to undermine Goss and thwart his efforts to reform an agency accused of massive intelligence failures leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks and the war in Iraq.

Sources pointed in particular to damaging information that was leaked to the media about Goss’ nominee for executive director of the agency, Michael V. Kostiw. Kostiw withdrew from consideration for the job after the Washington Post reported that he had left the CIA decades earlier after being accused of shoplifting. Kostiw remains a senior advisor to Goss.

Many people in recent years have talked of “how screwed up the CIA is, and somebody goes in to change things and suddenly it’s the end of the world,” said a longtime Goss associate who had spoken with the director’s senior aides in recent weeks.

Kappes and other senior officers “completely cold-shouldered Porter Goss when he came in,” said the former government official, who asked not to be identified. Now that President Bush has been reelected and it is clear Goss will not be a lame-duck at the agency, “the entrenched desk jockeys at the CIA -- and the directorate of operations in particular -- are going crazy,” the former official said.

Some CIA critics argue that still more departures are necessary to bring to heel an agency that many Republicans accused of seeking to sandbag Bush during the presidential campaign by leaking information that warned of the deteriorating situation in post-war Iraq.

The agency’s deputy director, John E. McLaughlin, announced his plans to retire Friday, and the CIA’s former executive director, A.B. “Buzzy” Krongard, was forced out shortly after Goss arrived.

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Another senior official, Michael Scheuer -- the former chief of the agency’s Osama bin Laden unit who wrote a book critical of the agency’s terrorism response -- quit last week; his departure apparently was unrelated to the new regime.

Goss did not address the turmoil at the agency in a written statement Monday, saying only that Kappes and Sulick had “honorably served their nation and this agency with distinction for many years.”

Goss said: “There will be no gap in our operations fighting the global war on terror, nor in any of our other vital activities.” He also indicated that a new head of the directorate of operations already had been selected. A U.S. intelligence official said Goss had chosen the head of the CIA’s counter-terrorism center. The agency asked that the official’s name not be published because he remained undercover.

Before arriving at the CIA in September, Goss was critical of the clandestine service, calling it “dysfunctional” and promising to overhaul it by thinning management and bureaucratic ranks at agency headquarters to bolster the number of operatives working overseas.

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A former congressional aide familiar with Goss’ plans said the CIA director would like to reverse a current ratio in which roughly one-third of those who worked in the clandestine service were overseas, while two-thirds were stationed at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Va.

Goss, a former Republican congressman from Florida, worked as a spy for the CIA in the 1960s. He has indicated that he intends to give station chiefs overseas greater autonomy and will seek to encourage greater risk-taking in mounting collection operations. Goss and his aides have said that the agency became too risk-averse during the 1990s.

Current and former CIA officials said they agreed with such goals and supported Goss’ declaration during his first speech at the agency to stress fundamentals of the spying tradecraft.

But many current and former officials said that Goss’ agenda was in danger of being derailed by growing animosity toward former congressional aides he brought with him to the agency and placed in high-level positions.

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Intelligence officials said Kappes and Sulick did not resign in protest of a new policy or new direction for the directorate they led, but because of confrontations with Goss’ chief of staff, Patrick Murray, who many accuse of having a brusque manner.

The officials said that the conflict with Murray came to a head during a recent meeting when Sulick challenged Murray in a face-to-face encounter, and Murray responded by ordering Kappes to fire or reassign his deputy. Kappes threatened Friday to resign over the incident, current and former officials said, but held off making a final decision until Monday, when he and Sulick both declared their intentions to retire.

Some of the acrimony between Goss’ team and the directorate of operations stems from a harshly critical report of the CIA that Murray helped draft for the House Intelligence Committee this year.

The report, which was included in the annual intelligence authorization bill, warned that the CIA’s vaunted spying network was headed over a “proverbial cliff” if reforms weren’t adopted.

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Former CIA Director George J. Tenet denounced the Goss report, and other agency officials warned that Goss would encounter hostility among the rank and file at the agency because of it.

The CIA has a reputation as being hostile toward -- and adept at undermining -- new leaders who were not in favor with the agency’s spies.

“All of a sudden these guys who they can’t stand are now out there running the show, and doing it in their usual, heavy-handed manner,” said a former congressional official who worked with the House Intelligence Committee.

Kappes was formerly station chief in Moscow, and is widely credited with playing an instrumental role in persuading Libyan President Moammar Kadafi to give up his weapons programs this year.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

A season of intrigue

The CIA has undergone numerous changes since the summer.

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Here are the key events:

July 9: The Senate Intelligence Committee issues a report documenting what it calls sweeping and systemic failures of U.S. intelligence agencies leading up to the war on Iraq.

July 11: George J. Tenet, after seven years as CIA director, cites personal reasons in announcing his retirement.

July 19: Acting CIA Director John E. McLaughlin plays down any possible connection between Iran and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

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July 20: President Bush distances himself from McLaughlin’s statements about an Iran connection, saying it is being investigated. The White House also says the CIA chief was not speaking for the president when McLaughlin said an intelligence czar was unnecessary.

July 22: The bipartisan National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States issues its final report, calling for the creation of a national intelligence director to oversee CIA, FBI and Pentagon intelligence operations. The Sept. 11 commission was particularly critical of the CIA’s inability to gather intelligence and share it effectively with other agencies.

Aug. 23: Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, prompts an outcry when he proposes abolishing the CIA and folding all of the U.S. intelligence agencies’ employees into a new National Intelligence Service.

Sept. 9: A senior Defense Department official tells the Senate Armed Services Committee that the CIA may have held as many as 100 “ghost” detainees in Iraq without disclosing their identities or locations. He said the CIA had repeatedly refused to cooperate with Pentagon investigators.

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Sept. 24: Rep. Porter J. Goss, a former CIA case officer and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is sworn in as director of central intelligence. A.B. “Buzzy” Krongard, the CIA’s executive director, leaves soon after.

Nov. 12: McLaughlin, who briefly led the agency after Tenet retired, cites personal reasons in resigning. Michael Scheuer, former chief of the CIA’s Osama bin Laden unit, resigns the same week.

Nov. 15: Stephen R. Kappes, the CIA’s deputy director for operations, and his deputy, Michael J. Sulick, resign.

Source: Los Angeles Times

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