- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 19, 2004

President Bush’s nomination of Porter Goss as director of central intelligence (DCI) salutes history’s lessons.

History teaches that the perfect DCI would enjoy the rank and experience of DCI Walter Bedell Smith, the money and business background of DCI John McCone, the clandestine intelligence savvy of DCI Richard Helms, the courage of DCI William Colby, the intellectual dazzle of DCI James Schlesinger, the unruffability of DCI George Bush the elder, the analytical acumen of DCI Robert Gates, the Adonis-like handsomeness of OSS Director William Donovan and political affiliation contrary to that of the president.

Rep. Porter Goss, Florida Republican, satisfies a commanding majority of these earmarks. He falls short of Mr. McCone’s wealth, but is financially comfortable. He sports foot-soldier experience as a case officer, complemented by his yeoman service on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He has built a business, and shined academically at Yale while majoring in Classical Greek and Latin. Although sharing Republican Party credentials with President Bush, his solid conservatism has resisted rabid ideology.

Until 1977, tradition largely exempted the DCI from celebrated dictum that to the victor belong the spoils of the enemy. In 1953, Gen. Smith, President Harry Truman’s DCI for nearly three years, was acceptable to the incoming Eisenhower administration. He would have remained undisturbed in his post but for Secretary of State John Foster Dulles’ insistence his brother Allen succeed to the intelligence czar. Nepotism, not politics, was at work. DCI Dulles served into the Kennedy administration, and was shipwrecked by the Bay of Pigs fiasco, not political scheming, a conclusion fortified by President Kennedy’s appointment of a Republican, John McCone, as the new DCI. The latter stayed on the job through the 1964 election of Lyndon B. Johnson, and departed voluntarily in April 1965 because of a disagreement with the president over the centrality of intelligence to policymakers.

The next covey of DCIs — Adm. William Raborn, Richard Helms, James Schlesinger, William Colby, and George Bush — bridged the 1968 Democratic-Republican presidential divide. They were not chosen to enable a political party to capture partisan control over the DCI or CIA. Mr. Helms, for example, was retained for years into the Nixon administration despite appointment by President Johnson.

Indeed, with the exception of Eisenhower’s appointment of Allen Dulles, who was more an intelligence wizard than a Republican stalwart, the DCI and the CIA alike celebrated their nonpolitical, nonideological professional ethos up to the conclusion of Mr. Bush’s tenure in January 1977. Their work product and operations generally reflected this objectivity.

President Jimmy Carter blatantly politicized intelligence by rebuffing Mr. Bush’s offer to continue in the new administration and nominating a Democrat Party loyalist, Kennedy speechwriter, family hagiographer and conscientious objector Ted Sorenson. His name was withdrawn when Mr. Sorenson’s conscientious objector status was revealed, an expressive symbol that clashed with the military activities and operations of the CIA and its liaison counterparts.

Mr. Carter next nominated Adm. Stansfield Turner, who carried an aura of intelligence professionalism but arrived with a political agenda fashioned by the White House. Adm. Turner proved a pliant political instrument, which wrenched and dispirited the intelligence community.

President Ronald Reagan bettered Mr. Carter’s instruction by appointing his campaign manager, William J. Casey, as DCI. He served as the Reagan administration’s political tool during his six-year tenure, doing whatever was necessary to advance the interests of his putative clients, the president and the American people. Mr. Casey’s legal juggleries armed his personal enemies and political foes with polemical weapons to create the misimpression the DCI was blinded by ideology.

William Webster succeeded Mr. Casey, and served under both Mr. Reagan and most of the administration of George Bush No. 41 as an unalarming ink blot. He stepped aside for Robert Gates, a nonpolitical analyst and CIA deputy director for intelligence. Mr. Gates’ appointment emphasized that the DCI should be above partisan or ideological suspicion.

President Bill Clinton balked at Mr. Gates’ campaign to remain as DCI. But Mr. Clinton was indifferent to the intelligence community and unschooled in foreign affairs. R. James Woolsey was chosen DCI by chance, which may explain why the appointment proved commendable.

Like John McCone, Mr. Woolsey featured managerial talent, intelligence knowledge with no firsthand experience, and political neutrality, although nominally a Democrat. But he was treated as a party crasher at the White House, and his irrelevance to the president occasioned resignation.

Mr. Clinton then appointed the worst DCI in history, activist Democrat John Deutch. This appointee hoped to catapult to defense secretary, ushered in a highly politicized team, but ended by escaping indictment for feloniously mishandling classified information with a Clinton pardon. George Tenet then followed as DCI, and retained office under President George W. Bush No. 43 until resigning last June.

The history of the DCI is a history of political appointees causing the president more grief than kudos by shading analysis and estimates to fit the administration’s agenda. Allan Dulles had his Bay of Pigs folly, Stansfield Turner his Iran hostage fiasco, and William Casey his Iran-Contra miscalculations. Porter Goss should learn from those examples, and steel himself to playing the messenger who must bring the president bad news when the occasion demands.

Bruce Fein is an international consultant with the Lichfield Group and former executive editor of the World Intelligence Review. Ward Warren is a former operations officer and former curator of the historical intelligence collection at the Central Intelligence Agency.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide