- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Yesterday, President Bush nominated Rep. Porter Goss to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The choice was a wise one, and the Senate must quickly confirm his nomination so that reforms of the intelligence apparatus can be made expeditiously and effectively.

Democrats, from Sen. John Kerry on down, who have maintained a drumbeat for quick reform run the risk of appearing hypocritical if they slow or block the nomination of Mr. Goss. The same is true if Democrats use the speed at which Mr. Goss may act on the recommendations of the September 11 commission as a proxy for the political fight over the shape and extent of intelligence reforms. Even if all of the commission’s recommendations were desirable (a debate separate from Mr. Goss’ fitness for the post), they could not take full form until the CIA has a director.

Mr. Goss’ intimate knowledge of the CIA will be essential to his ability to make effective changes. As Mr. Bush said yesterday, Mr. Goss “knows the CIA inside and out.” Mr. Goss spent a decade in the clandestine services, including nine years in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, before he was forced into retirement by a massive infection. He saw service in Western Europe and Latin America, and claimed, “I had some very interesting moments in the Florida Straits.”

The argument that Mr. Goss is too close to the intelligence community to make the required reforms is absurd. Ignorance of the agency is inimical to its reform. At best, a nominee without Mr. Goss’ knowledge of the CIA would lose time in learning about the agency’s functions and flaws. At worst, such a person would compound existing problems.

Another charge — that Mr. Goss is too partisan for the post — must be met with skepticism when coming from partisans like Sen. Jay Rockefeller. Those who know Capitol Hill well and who are willing to set aside their talking points readily will admit that Mr. Goss is one of the least partisan legislators. During his eight terms as a representative, Mr. Goss has quietly done effective work on a variety of issues, including intelligence. Since 1997, he has served as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Mr. Goss has the backing of fellow Floridian (and former presidential candidate) Sen. Bob Graham. Sen. Charles Schumer said of Mr. Goss, “He’s a fine man and the fact that he’s a Republican congressman doesn’t bother me.”

The only legitimate question that could be raised about Mr. Goss’ nomination is his lack of managerial experience over a large agency. However, Mr. Goss will have his deep familiarity with the CIA bureaucracy to fall back on.

With terror threats regularly rumbling through the air, it is essential that the CIA have a director as soon as possible. Mr. Goss should be confirmed as speedily as possible.

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