- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Rep. Porter J. Goss, who joined the CIA after entering the “wrong room” at an employment fair, soon might be at the helm of the spy agency if President Bush’s call for the man who “knows the CIA inside and out” is heeded by the Senate.

Mr. Goss’ father was a sales manager for a metals company, and one day, it took part in a job fair at Yale University, where Mr. Goss was majoring in classical languages.

As Mr. Goss described it two years ago to the Lee County Times of the Islands, a Florida magazine, when he went to the school’s employment center to visit his father’s company, “I went left instead of right, and I walked into the wrong room and the guys in the wrong room were CIA.”

The CIA recruiters were intrigued with the ROTC cadet with language skills. They interested Mr. Goss in the agency, but first, he had to complete his two years of Army duty. After graduating from Yale with high honors in 1960, Mr. Goss spent the next two years ostensibly in Army intelligence, but most of it really involved working at the CIA.

For the next decade, Mr. Goss was a case officer. He spent some time in the Miami area during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 and then traveled throughout Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe and Africa as an undercover case officer recruiting local agents.

Mr. Bush yesterday nominated the 65-year-old Florida Republican, who has been chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence for eight years, to replace George J. Tenet as director of the intelligence agency. Mr. Tenet recently resigned amid a torrent of criticism of the agency’s handling of prewar intelligence on Iraq. Mr. Goss’ nomination is subject to Senate confirmation.

During his CIA tenure, Mr. Goss and his wife, Mariel, and their four children lived either near the CIA headquarters in McLean, Va., or in London. Mr. Goss left the agency in 1971 after he was diagnosed with a staph infection that had attacked his heart and other vital organs.

He was offered a desk job at the CIA, but decided to retire instead. He settled in southwestern Florida’s seashell-strewn Sanibel Island, a haven for retired CIA operatives.

Mr. Goss immediately became involved in the community’s business and government scene. He ran a boat-rental operation and a beach cottage resort. With other former CIA officers, Mr. Goss helped found an award-winning weekly newspaper, the Island Reporter, and was its publisher.

He soon drifted into politics. Mr. Goss helped incorporate the city of Sanibel and became its first mayor in 1974. He served for eight years on the Sanibel City Council, including four one-year stints as mayor.

In 1983, Mr. Goss was the surprise choice of then-Gov. Bob Graham to fill a vacancy on the Lee County Commission. Mr. Goss easily won re-election to the commission, and in 1988, when Connie Mack III gave up his House seat to run for the Senate, Mr. Goss was elected to Congress. He has been re-elected every two years since then, running unopposed in 1990, 1994, 1998 and 2002.

Mr. Goss had planned to make the 2000 election his last before retirement, but that was before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

In the wake of those attacks, Mr. Goss and Mr. Graham took the unprecedented step of holding the first joint inquiry by full House and Senate committees in congressional history.

Under pressure from congressional leaders and the White House, Mr. Goss ran for re-election in 2002. House leaders waived the six-year term limit rule to allow him to remain as chairman of the House intelligence committee for eight years.

Mr. Goss has been seeking to increase funding for intelligence since well before the September 11 attacks and was a consistent defender of Mr. Tenet as CIA director.

But in June, Mr. Goss’ committee delivered a blistering assessment of the agency’s leadership. Mr. Tenet responded with a letter that called some of the assertions in the report “frankly absurd.”

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