- The Washington Times - Monday, November 22, 2004

Supporters of reform at the CIA yesterday criticized the “unfortunate” wording of a memo from newly appointed agency Director Porter J. Goss, in which staff were told that their job was to “support the administration.”

The memo, circulated via e-mail to staff last week after the angry resignations of the senior management team at the agency’s clandestine service, laid down what Mr. Goss called “some rules of the road.”

Attention immediately focused on a single passage, leaked to the media, in which Mr. Goss writes: “We support the administration and its policies in our work. As agency employees, we do not identify with, support or champion opposition to the administration or its policies.

“We provide the intelligence as we see it,” the memo continues, “and let the facts alone speak to the policymaker.”

“I read Porter Goss’ statement in its entirety,” Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “It’s unfortunate that there was one phrase in there about ‘We support the administration.’ The thrust of [the whole memo is] ‘We are non-political.’”

At another point in the memo, Mr. Goss — a former Republican congressman from Florida — states: “We do not make policy, though we do inform those who make it. We avoid political involvement especially political partisanship.”

A CIA official authorized to speak for the agency said the memo’s message was plain and simple: “When the CIA is asked to provide intelligence on a topic, we do so without shading or shaping the information in any way.”

Despite this, there was broad agreement among former senior officials that the wording of the passage cited by Mr. McCain was regrettable.

“That was not a well-crafted sentence,” former CIA Director James Woolsey told CNN.

That section of the memo is “open to serious misinterpretation,” a former senior agency official who is a Republican said on the condition of anonymity. “It is a highly charged and very unfortunate choice of words.”

Democrats went further in their criticism, arguing that the memo revealed a partisan agenda on Mr. Goss’ part.

Retired Adm. Stansfield Turner, who was CIA chief in the Carter administration, told CNN that the wording of the passage was “poor.”

“And the question is,” he continued, “Was it a Freudian slip?”

Adm. Turner said he would give Mr. Goss “the benefit of the doubt,” but not all were so generous.

Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, California Democrat, said the injunction against criticizing the administration contradicted the exhortation to honesty and independence.

“Which is it?” demanded Mrs. Eshoo, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which Mr. Goss led until taking up his new post.

“One is not the other. There’s a world of difference between supporting administration policy and letting the facts speak for themselves.

“If it’s the first,” she went on, “that’s exactly what he did at the committee. He carried the administration’s water. That shouldn’t be the case at the CIA.”

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