- The Washington Times - Monday, August 16, 2004

The ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence yesterday warned fellow Democrats that blocking the nomination of Rep. Porter J. Goss, Florida Republican, as CIA director is “the wrong fight” for an election season.

“I think that to get stuck in a fight about Porter Goss after tough questions have been asked of Porter Goss is not where we ought to be this fall,” Rep. Jane Harman of California told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Mrs. Harman was asked about the politicalization of the nomination by guest host Andrea Mitchell in response to a New York Times story on Thursday. The article cited several unnamed Democrats saying the nomination puts the party at risk of being portrayed as an obstacle in the war on terrorism.

The fact that Mr. Goss is from the battleground state of Florida is another factor in the Democrats’ hesitation to block the nomination, the report said.

“With the unanimous support of the Florida delegation and a lot of other folks, he will probably be confirmed,” Mrs. Harman said.

The confirmation will be handled by the Senate.

Democrats and Republicans instead should focus on restructuring the intelligence community and implementing recommendations from the September 11 commission, Mrs. Harman said.

Also appearing on NBC, Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican and chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said that the Senate plans to expedite Mr. Goss’s nomination and that he will hold hearings Sept. 8, one day after Congress returns from its August recess.

“It is an election year, but this issue transcends politics, and terrorists do not wait,” Mr. Roberts said.

President Bush tapped Mr. Goss on Tuesday for the post vacated by George J. Tenet, a Clinton appointee who resigned last month, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.

“I don’t know of a better choice the president could pick at this point in time. He doesn’t need any on-the-job training,” Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told CNN’s “Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer.”

“He can take over that job tomorrow morning,” Mr. Warner said.

Mr. Goss, a CIA agent from 1960 to 1971, has been chairman of the House intelligence committee for eight years.

“He’s the right man to lead this important agency at this critical moment in our nation’s history,” Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Roberts confirmed that Mr. Goss has support from key Democrats, but suggested that Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, ranking Democrat on the committee, may not be as supportive.

“He may not vote for Porter, but we both have agreed that we’re going to expedite the hearing,” Mr. Roberts said.

Democrats have criticized Mr. Goss as partisan, and some think that an elected official should not lead the intelligence agency.

“Simply because he is a congressman shouldn’t disqualify him for that position,” Mr. Roberts said.

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican, called it a “timely selection,” but said the “real battle is with the 9/11 commission.”

“The real issue with Congress and the CIA is that CIA has not penetrated the al Qaeda cells. And we have not had the kind of intelligence that can only come if you’re sitting around the table and you hear the dates and the place and so forth. Now, that is what the new director, or the new configuration, whatever it may be, has got to achieve,” Mr. Lugar said.

Mrs. Harman agreed. “The time to reform is now. It’s way past time. The question is how.”

Mr. Warner’s committee will hold hearings this week on the September 11 panel’s recommendations and whether to create a position to oversee all military and civilian agencies that deal with intelligence.

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