- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The Florida Republican nominated by President Bush to be the new director of central intelligence said yesterday that if he is confirmed, politics won’t play a factor in how he runs the CIA.

Rep. Porter J. Goss gave “his word” on the subject to Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican and chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, during the opening of his confirmation hearing.

Mr. Roberts had asked Mr. Goss whether he would “be a nonpartisan DCI?”

Last month, Mr. Goss ended an eight-year tenure as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and was a CIA agent from 1960 to 1971.

Questions were raised about whether Mr. Goss is “too partisan” for the job, as Democrats inquired about past comments from the nominee and his history as a partisan lawmaker.

Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said Mr. Goss had “made a number of statements relative to intelligence matters, many in the past year, that are highly, in my judgment, partisan and display a willingness on your part to use intelligence issues as a political broadsword against members of the Democratic Party.”

Mr. Goss, 65, who has been a Republican congressman for 15 years, said, “At times, perhaps, I’ve engaged in debate with a little too much vigor or enthusiasm.”

He added: “I do understand completely the difference in obligations the position of DCI carries with it and that which the role of congressman carries.”

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist wants the Senate to vote on the nomination as soon as next week, a spokesman for the Tennessee Republican said yesterday.

Mr. Bush nominated Mr. Goss early last month after CIA Director George J. Tenet, a holdover from the Clinton administration, stepped down. The resignation came as the Senate intelligence committee prepared a report castigating the CIA for intelligence failures during the run-up to the war in Iraq.

At yesterday’s hearing, senators asked Mr. Goss how he would have handled the prewar intelligence situation had he been head of the CIA.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, Maryland Democrat, presented a hypothetical scenario about what he would do if a staff member “feels that they are being hammered in a way to skew the analysis and recommendations they give.”

Mr. Goss responded: “I would deal with it very directly. It is inappropriate to try and shape the intelligence. There’s no question. … Outside interference in that process cannot be tolerated.”

If confirmed, Mr. Goss will be taking over an agency rife with criticism, and would be at the front of the line to become the nation’s first national intelligence director, a position recommended by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

Several senators yesterday touched on the importance of the confirmation hearing, given the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Rockefeller said “the stakes are simply enormous,” and that “never before in the 57-year history of the intelligence community has there been a need for a director of central intelligence with unimpeachable character, proven leadership and management experience, and a strong national security set of credentials.”

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